Pontiac: The ‘Platform City’ That Never Was

Pontiac is the seat of Michigan’s wealthiest county, but much of downtown is vacant as the city’s population has fallen steadily from its 1970 peak of 85,000. No, don’t blame it on the auto industry. The decline began in 1960 when county offices moved to an undeveloped field on the city’s fringe, and was hastened over the next few years as neighborhoods were razed to create Wide Track Drive (now the Woodward Loop), a ring road which allowed two intersecting highways to bypass the city center altogether.

To cap it all off—pun intended—planners C. Don Davidson and Bruno Leon envisioned demolishing much of downtown to create an elevated ‘platform city’ that would span the downtown street grid, reaching from one parking structure to the next.

This never happened, of course. By the time construction began in 1980, much of the ‘Pontiac Plan’ had already been forgotten. All we were left with was a parking garage.

See my article in Mode Shift for more.

Challenging the Myth of Pruitt-Igoe

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, a documentary by Chad Freidrichs, comprises yet another attempt to interpret the history of Pruitt-Igoe, a vast and ambitious St. Louis public housing project by Detroit architect Minoru Yamasaki that was completed in 1956 and failed sixteen years later. By the late 1950s, the quality of life of Pruitt-Igoe’s residents had already begun a catastrophic downward spiral as the buildings fell victim to vandalism and disrepair and became a haven for crime and violence. The complex was demolished in the early 1970s.

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