Emmanuel Pratt: Radical [Re]Constructions

September 12, 2017–December 30, 2018

Installation view of Radical [Re]Constructions

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, where Pratt is co-founder and executive director, 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 formerly abandoned house which is currently under reconstruction by the Sweet Water team. Materials include salvaged wood pieces that were used to transport large glass windows for the new Campus North Residence Hall adjacent to the Museum. The wood has been treated by Pratt and youth apprentices from the Sweet Water Foundation and finished with the traditional Japanese charring technique shou sugi ban, an investment of time and labor that brings out the natural beauty of the wood. It also includes a sectional perspective drawing based on activities that currently occur in the Think-Do House. 

The house’s functional front porch or stoop extends into the Smart’s lobby and café space, and a sculptural bench and other furniture made from reclaimed wood provide inclusive spaces to sit, meet, and eat. As the Smart's 2017–2018 Interpreter in Residence, Pratt convenes a series of interdisciplinary dinners that examine a different theme connected to Radical [Re]Constructions: housing, work, health, and education.

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 The Artist

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.

Radical [Re]Constructions was realized in collaboration with:

Sweet Water Foundation team

Smart Museum team


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.