MacArthur Foundation

Chicago-based urban designer Emmanuel Pratt was named one of 26 MacArthur fellows in this year's class of grant recipients, all of whom will be awarded $625,000 over five years from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to spend at their discretion. Informally referred to as "genius grants," this award is bestowed on "extraordinarily talented and creative individuals as an investment in their potential," according to the foundation.

A graduate of Cornell University and Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Pratt is the co-founder and executive director of the Sweet Water Foundation in Chicago, which operates a 2-acre farm on Chicago’s South Side and works with the local community to transform abandoned buildings and vacant lots into sustainable urban agriculture sites. Recent projects include the redesign of a shipping container into a gallery, greenhouse, and learning lab, as well as the rehabilitation of a vacant residence into a venue for cooking demonstrations and design workshops. In the organization's next phase, it will focus on ground-up neighborhood housing.

The Sweet Water Foundation also hosts an apprenticeship program that focuses on teaching high school students about urban ecology through carpentry, farming, architecture, and gardening.

“One of the challenges on the South Side and West Side of Chicago is there’s been a depletion of resources, access to capital,” Pratt said in a MacArthur Foundation video. “So a lot of times we don’t start with the dollars and the capital. We start with what assets are there: what humans are there, what spaces are available.”

A former Loeb Fellow at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Pratt is currently a visiting lecturer in the Environmental and Urban Studies Program at the University of Chicago.

A full list of this year’s MacArthur Fellows and an archive of past grant recipients are available the MacArthur Foundation’s website. Previous winners include landscape architect Kate Orff and architect Jeanne Gang, FAIA.