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Architecture and Crime

Building demolition out of necessity

Are humans really that destructive?

This article provides information on indications that architecture is contributing to vacancy, crime, and even seemingly inevitable demolition. If architecture is considered early on, this can be avoided.

„ I never thought people were that destructive.”

„It’s a job I wish I hadn’t done [1].”

Yamasaki about Pruitt Igoe

In 1972, the Pruitt Igoe (USA) project was demolished after conditions of vacancy and uncontrollable crime. It is neither the first nor the last project to suffer this fate. Harter Plateau (Austria) , Rockwell Gardens (USA) and partially Bijlmermeer (Netherlands) are other examples. Yamasaki's quote to Architectural Review makes it clear that he blames the people living in it and calls them destructive. Later he admits mistakes on the part of the design [2]. 

the human being is powerful and open to injury.

The motivations for violence are so varied and diverse,

that they elude a manageable list.

No genetic program restricts man's capacity for violence

auf bestimmte Situationen ein. Zum Täter kann jeder werden… [3]” 

Trutz von Trotha

The ability for people to destroy things exists. For this very reason, the focus in this article is on recognizing the first indications that show the unnoticed step by step impact of architecture. This goes hand in hand with the fact that here lie causes that can be recognized.

The first impression about the built project was positive and motivating. The initial period of living was characterized by optimism and community. Over time, the mood changes.

„ It was like a oasis in the dessert.”

„sometimes somebody put out a

record player somewhere …

we started a party …

we danced …

and everybody

come from everywhere ….“

„ first you just get out and meet somebody …

in the end you where worrying who is out there.“

„ the danger was just around the corner….“

„ it was uncontrollable…. [4]“ 

Statements from residents

Within this development cycle, there have been initiatives by residents, attempts at redevelopment on the part of the property management, and a multitude of hypotheses about possible causes by people from the fields of politics, the media, architectural criticism, and the public, among others. Perplexity sets in. With this perplexity as an effect of the lack of concrete causes and thus approaches to solutions, the search for the " guilty parties [4] " begins.

„ the crime was real but the crime stigmatized the people inside… [4]” 

Old projects, old problems? No. Densification, high-rise buildings and the realization of so-called megacities like the Line make it necessary to think about crime prevention architecturally and to take it into account in the planning process. By dealing with complex problems, we can learn and prevent avoidable mistakes with devastating consequences from being repeated.

Summary of indications:

Indication 1: the positive community mood changes and first forms and indications of criminality appear

Indication 2:  community initiatives as well as structural renovation measures do not achieve the desired effect

Indication 3: cluelessness about causes of criminality in the built environment

Indication 4: identifying residents as the " guilty ones"

ACC calls on you to look closely and recognize what architecture and built structures contribute. Recognize them. Find solutions. Learn from them and design future projects to prevent crime.

In the next article, we will go into more detail about the Pruitt Igoe.



[2] Minoru Yamasaki (1912-1986, in The Architectural Review 2.2.2019,, accessed 22.4.23.

[3] Trutz von Trotha, Über die Zukunft der Gewalt, in Journal Monatsschrift für Kriminologie und Strafrechtsreform, S. 349,, accessed 22.4.23.

[4] Chad Freidrichs, Film: the Pruitt-Igoe myth, Online streaming zum Kauf:, accessed 22.4.23.



Direct as well as indirect citations are marked by [numbering] in the text and their listing in the bibliography. The article is based on the literature cited and the professional evaluation of the two authors Janine Müller and Konrad Melzer.


The team

As the AAC team, Janine & Konrad draw attention to challenges related to crime and architecture and point out possible solutions. For them, cities and architecture have a social responsibility and task.

Konrad Melzer

Human centered architecture

Both have a classical university education in architecture and both are specialized in housing and architectural psychology. Janine & Konrad share a devoted interest in living spaces where coexistence and nature can flourish. Safe living spaces support the need for safety and are an essential human right for all.


Janine Müller


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