TU Berlin

Center for Metropolitan StudiesHorlitz, Sabine

CMS Logo

Page Content

to Navigation

Sabine Horlitz

Center for Metropolitan Studies (CMS)
TU Berlin
Ernst-Reuter-Platz 7, TEL 3-0
10587 Berlin


Pruitt-Igoe: Icon of Failure? Planning paradigms, modes of regulation and the perception of the US-American public housing project

The 1972 demolition of the US-American public housing project Pruitt-Igoe in St. Louis, Missouri, is still a central reference in the current architecture and urban planning discourse. Following the interpretation of the architecture theorist Charles Jencks, who pinpointed the death of modern architecture as the moment of the buildings’ blast, it became the symbol of the failure not only of the architectural project of modernity but also of public social welfare policies. Despite its high degree of popularity and symbolic content, any first-hand information or contemporary witness reports on the housing project are rare. Few know that more than 30 years after its demolition, hundreds of former inhabitants meet annually and still commend its social cohesion. The project’s usual reading still follows the interpretation coined by the 1970s discourse; Pruitt-Igoe, today as well as then, serves mainly as a blatant illustration or projection screen, an iconic unmistakable evidence of failure. Yet, from a current critical perspective, it becomes obvious how many blind spots and omissions underlay this attribution: Neither the social conditions of its design and implementation, nor the collective actions of the tenants or the attempts to remodel and renovate the housing complex undertaken in the last years of the project became part of the debate.

Against this background, the dissertation aims at a critical rereading of the public housing complex by (re)investigating its social context and the conditions of its planning process as well as the daily life and grass roots activities of the tenants through the analyses of historical documents, interviews with people and institutions involved. Assuming that a differentiated approach to this housing project will lead to other conclusions than the predominant assumptions and representations, the research focus will be on its so far underrepresented aspects, and relate those to Pruitt-Igoe’s function in the planning discourse as well as to the project’s political instrumentalization.

Questioning Pruitt-Igoe’s role in the urban discourse also aims to explore the reasons and modes of the recurrent talk of its outright failure and – in a more general sense – the apparently strong need for unambiguous images and lines of argumentation not only within the architectural debate. A repoliticized interpretation of this housing project also implies reconsidering the central assumptions concerning the failure of the modernist project to question the basis for and self-conception of post-modernism as well as the corresponding questions of the role of the state, the aesthetic production and the corresponding urbanization processes.

Curriculum Vitae


since 2008
DFG Fellow at the Transatlantic Graduate Research Program, Center for Metropolitan Studies, Technical University Berlin, Germany

Diploma in Architecture, Thesis: “Codification and Recodification of Urban Space and Architecture”

1996 – 2002
Studies of Architecture, Technical University Berlin
Student assistant at the Department of Planning and Architecture Sociology, Prof. Bodenschatz (1999 – 2002)

1994 – 1996
Studies of Sculpture, Academy of Fine Arts, Berlin Weißensee


since 2002
Founder, publisher and member of the editorial board of the Berlin based journal An Architektur; within this context: participation in and organization of various international events, conferences, lectures and workshops, initiation of the “Camp for Oppositional Architecture”

since 2000
Work in various architectural and town planning offices
Participation in international workshops, research projects and thematic exhibitions (e.g. Projekt Migration, Liminal Spaces)

Publications, Lectures etc.


“Spatial justice for Ayn Hawd”, in: Critical Planning, Issue 14, Los Angeles**
An Architektur 18: Camp for Oppositional Architecture: Theorizing Architectural Resistance*

“Camp for Oppositional Architecture”, in: Archis / Volume 10. Agitation, Amsterdam*
An Architektur 16/17: Material on: David Harvey, Flexible Accumulation through Urbanization / Material on: Manuel Castells, The City and the Grassroots / interview booklet: Quarries of Theory Construction. Manuel Castells, David Harvey and the Resistance in the Capitalist City*

“Sangatte: géographie de la frontière”, in: Franck Düvell (ed), “Politiques Migratoires, grandes et petites manoevres”*   
“Palastparken”, in: Philipp Misselwitz, Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Philipp Oswalt (eds), “Fun Palace Berlin 200X”*
“Oppositional Architecture”, in: Bartolomeo Pietromarchi (ed), “The (un)common place. Art, Public Space and Urban Aesthetics in Europe”*
“Charter for Oppositinal Architecture”, in: 32BNY, New York*
An Architektur 15: European Migration Geographies, Poland*
An Architektur 14: Camp for Oppositional Architecture*

“R wie Raum” in: Mario Hohmann, Stefan Rettich (eds), “Von A bis Z. 26 Essays zu Grundbegriffen der Architektur”*
An Architektur 11-13: Theory and Practice of Cartography. Material on: Brian Harley / Geography of the Departure Center Fürth / Philippe Rekacewicz: Mapping the Globalization*

“Burning Down the House: The German-Japanese Village”, in: Cabinet. A Quarterly of Art and Culture, Issue 12, New York*
“Retrorhethorik – Codierung von städtischem Raum und Architektur”, in: zweifelsohne, archpluspreis 3
“Extra-territorial Spaces and Camps: Juridical-Political Spaces in the War on Terrorism”, in: Anselm Franke et al. (eds), “Territories – Islands, Camps and other States of Utopia”*
An Architektur 10: Community Spaces*
An Architektur 04-09: War and the Production of Space*

An Architektur 01-03: Material on: Lefèbvre, The Production of Space / Private Property Protection for Rent / The Geography of a Border: Sangatte*

“freies fach. Urban Action”, in: Jochen Becker (ed), “Bignes? Size does matter. Image/Politik. Städtisches Handeln”*


“Real Estate Funds and the Privatization of Public Property”, Right to the City workshop, Mehringhof, Berlin**
“Community Design in the US”, organization of public interviews/talks, arttransponder, Berlin*
“How much did you pay for this plot of land?”, Ydre Nørrebro Kultur Bureau, Copenhagen**

“Cartographic Practice and the Production of Space”, as part of the Critical Geography lecture series, HU Berlin*
“Spatial Justice for Ayn Hawd”, City and Health Symposium, Nilüfer Municipality, Bursa, Turkey**
“In Search for”, as part of the series: Free Space for Culture and Living, Art Academy Copenhagen*

“Camp for Oppositional Architecture. Theorizing Architectural Resistance”, organization of an international conference on the possibilities of oppositional architectural practice in cooperation with Casco, Utrecht*
Starter-Workshop “Liminal Spaces”, Qalandia, Ramallah, West Bank**

“Städtisches Handeln”, round table: An Architektur & Stalker, Galerie Attitudes, Geneva, Switzerland*
“Oppositional Architecture”, in the course of: On War and Peace. The Spatiality of Extreme Phenomena, Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Vienna*

“Cartographic Practice”, workshop: Mapping Europe, Konferenz Transnational Europe I, Rethymnon/Crete*
“Camp for Oppositional Architecture”, organization of an international conference on the possibilities of oppositional architectural and planning practice*
“Selforganization and Institutionalization”, Freie Klasse Projekt 2004, UdK, Berlin*

“The Political Project”, conference “Off-Architecture”, Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Nuremberg*
“Cartographic Praxis” / workshop “Plans to Abandon Oversight”, Ex-Argentinia, HAU 2, Berlin*
“New Spatial Logic and Parallel Juridical Systems”, conference “Space of Empire: Urbanism – Control – State of Emergency”, UdK, Berlin*

Workshop “Space // Trouble. City. Economy. War”, ErsatzStadt, Prater, Berlin*
“Human Beings in Camps. Berlin/Sangatte”, International Mobile Academy, Volksbühne, Berlin*


“Community Design. Involvement and Architecture in the US since 1963”, arttransponder, Berlin*
“Sozial Diagramme. Planning Reconsidered”, Künstlerhaus Stuttgart*

“Communal Spaces / Community Places / Common Rooms”, Common Room, New York*
“Just Space(s)”, LACE, Los Angeles**

“Architecture of Camps”, Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory, Utrecht*
“Liminal Spaces”, Gesellschaft für Zeitgenössische Kunst, Leipzig**
“sadly safe, in training”, Grazer Kunstverein, Graz*

“Projekt Migration”, Kölnischer Kunstverein, Cologne*

“Now and Ten Years Before”, Kunst-Werke, Berlin*
“Territories”, Kunst-Werke, Berlin; Witte de With, Rotterdam; Konsthal, Malmö*

“8th Havana Biennial”, Pabellón Cuba, Havana*
“Kiosk Info-Offspring”, Postplatz, Dresden*
“radical architecture III”: processing uncertainties, MAK, Cologne*

“Violence is at the Margin of All Things”, Generali Foundation, Vienna*

“Supermarkt – money, market, gender politics”, Shedhalle, Zurich*


VAI, Vorarlberger Architektur Institut, Austria, 2008
sommer school, workshop: property and divided inheritence in Vorarlberg*

Technical University Delft, The Netherlands, 2007
international design seminar, INDESEM*

University of Arts, Berlin, 2004
design seminar and practice project in relation with the “Camp for Oppositional Architecture”*

a42.org / Master of Architecture: Academy of Arts, Nuremberg, 2004
design seminar and research on cartographic possibilities of representation*

Technical University Berlin, Faculty of Humanities, 2003 – 2004
seminars in architecture history and theory

*as part of An Architektur
**together with Oliver Clemens


Quick Access

Schnellnavigation zur Seite über Nummerneingabe