Chicago Public Housing: [In]visible CHAos

Kathleen O'Donnell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNConference contribution with ISSN or ISBNpeer-review


In the past ten years over 25,000 housing units were demolished as part of the Chicago Housing Authority[the CHA] “The Plan for Transformation: CHAnge.” This latest surge is demolition of CHA housing that CHA built from 1934 replacing earlier chaos and blight. This is Chicago’s failed experiment: the Projects or Chicago Public Housing. How could CHA housing not be communities? I argue that freedom is the essence of Modernist ideology and any formation of autonomous political engagement within the Projects suggest in part, they were not total failure. States of transparency visible or invisible within the context of Arendt’s notion of the political, are illuminated from appearances and discourses by individuals and collectives resulting from an actor, a change in process or other aspect in our world, that we experience, judge and reflect upon understood from our past political knowledge. The political of two housing communities showing ideological shifts are described; the imaginative ideology of the first CHA director, Elizabeth Wood in the Ida B. Wells community; and the experimental ideology emblematic of J. L. Sert and the functional city of CIAM 4 expressed through Stateway Gardens high-rise community. This piece is a synopsis of a longer essay that explores the materialized form of the political that evolves within Public housing around four myths: Afterglow: The Myth of the Social; Containment: the Myths of Experimentation, Experts and Technology; Abandonment: the Myth of Fear and Economics; and CHAnge: the Myth that ‘We are all Middle Class’.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIdeology in Transparency
Publication statusPublished - 9 May 2009
EventIdeology in Transparency - Architectural Association, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 3 Jan 0001 → …


ConferenceIdeology in Transparency
Period3/01/01 → …


  • Crisis, Political, Housing, Chicago, Urbanism, Arendt, Imagination, Castriodris


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