Chapter

Planning a Social Disaster

in Blueprint for Disaster

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2009 | ISBN: 9780226360850
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226360874 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226360874.003.0007
Planning a Social Disaster

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During the protracted battle between the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) and Washington over designs in the 1950s, officials rarely offered precise rationales for their objections to high-rises as a form for housing families with children. Elizabeth Wood stated that low-rises were more “natural,” while Catherine Bauer pointed to surveys of tenant desires. CHA administrators found it difficult to manage elevator buildings but offered no clear explanation why. “Experience,” vaguely defined, indicated that high-rises were a bad idea, though knowledge was intuitive or anecdotal at best. But no one at the time questioned a planning choice that would lead to public housing's demise in Chicago and elsewhere. Placing enormous numbers of children and relatively few adults in high-rise buildings resulted in widespread social disorder. Tenants in high-rises were on their own, living in large buildings overrun with youth and hardly protected by ineffectual guards. With demographics stacked against it, the CHA's large projects proved ungovernable. Their failure dragged the rest of the operation down with them.

Keywords: Chicago Housing Authority; public housing; Chicago; design; high-rise buildings; children; Catherine Bauer; youth; social disorder; Elizabeth Wood

Chapter.  14429 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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