Emmanuel Pratt - [Re]Constructing PUBLIC TRUST: Reframing Past, Present, and Future

The cofounder and executive director of the Sweet Water Foundation presents his work in conversation with moderator Casey Jones.

June 1, 2021

Recorded on April 29, 2021.

Current Work is a lecture series featuring leading figures in the worlds of architecture, urbanism, design, and art.

Emmanuel Pratt is cofounder and executive director of the Sweet Water Foundation (SWF), a nonprofit organization based on Chicago’s South Side. SWF engages local residents in the cultivation and regeneration of social, environmental, and economic resources in neighborhoods that have suffered the effects of long-term disinvestment. Drawing on the transformative possibilities of Regenerative Neighborhood Development, defined by SWF as an “emergent design process that dynamically cultivates intentional acts of civic arts and participatory design as integral components to reimagine the urban ecology of the built environment,” SWF has transformed four contiguous city blocks into The Commonwealth, “a real-world, physical manifestation of how built spaces reflect and impact understanding of the common and the collective.”

In this video, Pratt discusses projects in The Commonwealth including:

  • The Thought Barn, a timber-framed structure constructed in 2017 to house a visual and performing arts and community gathering space.
  • [Re]Construction House, an example of Regenerative Neighborhood Development applied to the 2019 relocation, rehabilitation, and adaptive reuse of an abandoned home, now an art gallery and co-living space that creates “a vibrant place of commoning.”
  • Civic Arts Church, the transformation of an abandoned church located near The Commonwealth, acquired by SWF in 2020. With the assistance of a grant from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, the historic structure will be renovated and activated into a place that “honors and preserves histories that have been erased and untold.”

The lecture is followed by a conversation with Chicago-based Casey Jones, the firmwide Design Leadership Council Director and a principal at Perkins&Will. He formerly served as the Deputy Director for Overseas Building Operations at the U.S. Department of State and the Director of Design Excellence at the U.S. General Services Administration.


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