On March 16, 1972, the first of 3311-story high apartment buildings of Pruitt-Igoe was demolished, less than 20 years after its first inhabitation.
The tragic fate of the otherwise praised and celebrated complex, came as a result of unfortunate architectural decisions made in the middle of highly complex social, political and economic conditions, that apparently were overseen — or underestimated — by the local government, architects and project developers.
So what this story says about density and intensification in relation to architecture and urban design? Is it just another episode of our excessive optimism and lack of vision? This studio is being offered from the conviction that the story of Pruitt-Igoe — not too different to many other similar architecture’s heroic attempts — represents an opportunity to reflect — and therefore revamp — a seemingly flawed model, the superblock, that seems necessary to emplace for the sustainable development of the contemporary city.
Rather than pursuing banal generalisations of density, rampant in commercial practice and some tertiary education institutions,this studio seeks to examine the possibilities and limitations of urban intensification, in order to engage in a project-based investigation prompted by the following questions:
Is it increasing density a panacea for contemporary urban environments?
If so, how dense should we go?
Are there different models to increase density from which we can learn as to avoid mistakes made in the past?
What models should be inquired and adapted to the economic, social and cultural landscape of contemporary cities such as Melbourne?
Is the increasing density model par excellence, the high-rise public housing building — or superblock —, a successful typology?
In this studio, students will have the opportunity to engage in a personal and speculative exploration of invention, intervention, integration and transformation of high-rise public housing buildings — or superblocks.
This exploration will depart from an examination of pairs of superblocks selected from a pool of local and international iconic models.
Local models will be chosen from 21 sites spread across 14 Melbourne suburbs, where around 45 high-rise public housing buildings still exist.
This examination will result in the formulation of a specific architecture and urban problem, articulated as a research question to be answered through individual project-based investigations.
The resulting project-based investigations are expected to engage in thought provoking methodologies infused by each student’s concerns in relation to contemporary architecture and urban design.
It is expected that the project also explores architecture’s potential to act as vehicles for social, political and disciplinary commentary.
SUPERBLOCK REVAMPED! ARC5002 / Architectural Design Research Project Semester 2 / 2013 Mondays & Thursdays from 2 to 5pm Led by Eduardo Kairuz