Emmanuel Pratt: Radical [Re]Constructions

September 12, 2017 through Summer 2018

Emmanuel Pratt, Concept sketches for Radical [Re]Constructions, 2017. Courtesy of the artist.

Emmanuel Pratt’s interdisciplinary approach to regenerative placemaking on the South Side of Chicago mixes art, architecture, and community and economic development.

Radical [Re]Constructions connects the Museum space to Pratt’s ongoing work through the Sweet Water Foundation and the development of the Think-Do House and Perry Avenue Commons, a community hub and urban farm located two miles west of the Smart in a so-called “blighted” neighborhood. The installation features a large, three-dimensional representation of a house, set against the Museum’s central lobby wall and constructed from salvaged materials including wood that apprentices from the Sweet Water Foundation finished with the traditional Japanese shou sugi ban charring technique. Other elements include architectural wall drawings, video elements, and a functional front porch or stoop that extends into the Smart’s lobby and café space.

The installation also reaches out into the Museum’s sculpture garden. A network of sculptural, multifunctional furniture made from reclaimed wood by Sweet Water Foundation’s master carpenter and apprentices provides inclusive spaces to sit, meet, and eat. Throughout 2017–2018, Radical [Re]Constructions will serve as the site for a series of interdisciplinary workshops and other programs on the subject of the built environment and issues like vacancy, community (re)development, displacement, and gentrification.

Radical [Re]Constructions is Pratt and the Sweet Water Foundation’s first long-term museum project, and the sixth site-specific lobby installation in the Smart’s Threshold series.

About Emmanuel Pratt

Emmanuel Pratt is co-founder and Executive Director of the Sweet Water Foundation and founding member of axilL3C. Pratt earned his BArch from Cornell University, his MSAUD (Masters in Science of Architecture and Urban Design) from Columbia University, and is presently a doctoral candidate in the PhD program of Urban Planning also from Columbia University. He is also the Director of Aquaponics for Chicago State University and teaches courses within the college of Arts and Sciences.


Launched in 2010, the Threshold series brings large-scale installations of contemporary art to the Smart Museum’s lobby and courtyard on an annual or biennial basis. The prominent placement of these commissions ensures that all visitors—whether they have come to the building for a class, an exhibition, or a cup of coffee—will instantly encounter thought-provoking new art.