Charles Pratt, just over a year after establishing Pratt Institute, delivered these words to some of our institution’s earliest students. In his address, he emphasized the progressive values that influenced him as he launched this grand project—satisfaction in work, the power of helping others, and how actions today set a blueprint for a life and the world to come.
This past academic year, Pratt Institute marked 135 years of educating creative leaders to shape that future. At a milestone such as this, it is natural to reflect on the foundations of the work we do and cultivate at Pratt. When the first class of 12 drawing students assembled in 1887, the country was in the midst of rapid industrial development and technological change, and Pratt would offer a pathway for individuals from all walks of life to participate in fields that transformed life as their predecessors knew it.
Since then, generations of students have come to Pratt to hone the unique skills and sensibilities necessary to engage with emerging modalities and media, to collaborate and problem solve, to meet the pressing issues of the day. Each has drawn its own set of outlines, articulated, challenged, and iterated on by the next. Our students today are forging new frameworks, new origins that will determine what’s next, based on command and critique of models of the past.
This year at Pratt, we have been excited to lead and collaborate on endeavors that lay the groundwork for new generations of ambitious, imaginative young people to establish their practices while deepening our involvement in our New York City communities.
Pratt has continued its partnership with Bank Street College of Education and the NYC Department of Education to launch Design Works High School in fall 2023. Located in downtown Brooklyn, the new high school will lay the foundation for secondary students to have profound impact through creative fields that Pratt has long defined, with a curriculum that draws on codesign thinking, creative expression, and social justice.
This spring, Pratt launched the Research Yard at Brooklyn Navy Yard (BNY). Just steps from our Brooklyn campus, the Research Yard is home to the majority of Pratt’s academic centers and research accelerators as well as fabrication labs and other spaces that support the creative economy. Students from Design Works High School and the BNY STEAM Center will soon work with our Pratt research community to codesign innovations that can meaningfully address real-world problems.
Meanwhile, on Governors Island, we are thrilled to be a core partner on the team selected to develop the New York Climate Exchange, a research and educational hub poised to establish New York City as the global leader for the most pressing issue of our time: climate change. This will build on Pratt’s foundation of work on Governors Island, adding to a nexus of research and innovation that draws from our community-engaged, participatory design processes and our history of developing sustainable solutions to advance environmental justice.
Another major international initiative Pratt led in March was Condensations: Designing In Water, helmed by Chair of Graduate Architecture and Urban Design David Erdman, with Research and Strategic Partnerships, for the UN 2023 Water Conference and New York Water Week, examining how design and the built environment intersect with issues of permanent climate change and adaptation, with a specific focus on some of the most dense and vulnerable areas on the planet.
Though the challenges of our time are in many ways different from those that defined the era of Pratt’s founding, a throughline remains. To our incredible alumni, faculty, staff, and students: you are part of this lineage, pushing the boundaries of artistic expression and critical inquiry, redefining the form and impact of the environments we dwell in, and improving the tools and systems that enhance lives every day. Pratt continues to be a place where artists and creative professionals, visionaries and systems thinkers, collaborators and questioners find fertile ground, infused with a history of social responsibility, inspired making, and community action, to write the next chapters of our collective story.
—Frances Bronet, President