The Public Interest

Bauhaus blunders: architecture and public housing

Witold Rybczynski

Fall 1993

CABRINI-GREEN IS a large, inner-city public housing project on Chicago’s Near North Side.  It attracted national attention in October of 1992, when a seven year-old boy walking to school with his mother was fatally shot (for no apparent reason) by a sniper from an abandoned apartment in one of the project’s high-rise buildings. The tragic shooting was widely reported, and journalists drew predictable, if farfetched, parallels with violence-ridden Sarajevo. What struck me was how much the background behind the television reporters really did resemble Sarajevo—that is, it looked European rather than American. It was not only the bleak expanses of grassed public spaces rather than streets, and the lack of private gardens, but also the sight of tall, institutional-looking apartment blocks rather than of neighborhood streets lined with single-family houses.

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