Radical [Re]Constructions


Sweet Water Foundation's interdisciplinary approach to Regenerative Neighborhood Development on the South Side of Chicago mixes art, architecture, and community and economic development.

Radical [Re]Constructions connected the Smart Museum space to Sweet Water Foundation’s ongoing development of the Perry Avenue Commons, which is located just two miles west of the Smart in a so-called “blighted” neighborhood. The installation featured 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 included architectural wall drawings, video elements, and a functional front porch or stoop that extended into the Smart’s lobby and café space.

The installation also reached 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 served 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 was 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.

The SWF and Smart teams [de]constructed the installation in January of 2019. The relationship will continue outside of the museum through a new project, The [Re]Construction House.



We the publics...
harvard university graduate school of design

This exhibition at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design was the result of a series of discussions between Emmanuel Pratt (Loeb Fellow ’17) and Dan Borelli (Director of Exhibitions, MDes ‘12) regarding the state of humanitarian and political crises . “We the Publics…” is a response to the steady erosion of the Publics over the last century that has, today, accelerated at warp speed. In these times filled with uncertainty, “fake news”, and “alternative facts” this project is a small step towards the protection, restoration, and reclamation of the Publics as being paramount not only to American democracy, but world peace and life on our planet.

vacancy: ecology of absence?
lass curtain gallery at columbia college chicago

This sprawling installation included custom-designed furniture made from wooden pallets; a “green house” for growing healthy food; contextual information including photographic “responses” to vacancy; and a sampling of the original furniture designs showing how students’ hand-drawn ideas were translated into professional renderings by architects. The collaboratively built furniture represents Sweet Water Foundation’s ongoing work in community building, sharing and supporting that happens in its no-longer-vacant community centers, aquaponics labs and urban farms that fill the city.


Sweet Water Foundation's exhibit displayed a biodynamic feedback loop exploring cycles of blight in biological and social terms. Comprising a custom aquaponics system and environmental sensing systems with other similar installations at community gardens, public schools, and other sites throughout Chicago, the installation will be an integrated part of Sweet Water’s teaching and research network.