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Gateway was the community newsletter of Pratt Institute published monthly by the Office of Communications, in the Division of Institutional Advancement through spring 2014. For current Pratt-related news, visit the News page on Pratt’s website.



New Myrtle Hall Demonstrates Commitment to Innovative Design, Environmental Sustainability, and Neighborhood Revitalization Effort


Top: The main entrance to Myrtle Hall; Bottom: Myrtle Hall facing Myrtle Avenue.


Pratt Institute opened its new six-story, 120,000-square-foot green academic and administrative building, a striking space that is expected to both serve as a physical manifestation of Pratt’s commitment to sustainable design education, and further promote the revitalization of Myrtle Avenue.

Called Myrtle Hall, the building at 536 Myrtle Avenue houses Pratt’s Department of Digital Arts and several administrative offices.

Designed by the New York City architecture firm WASA/Studio A, the new building is expected to meet the United States Green Building Council standards for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification based on its eco-features that include exterior sun shades; a green roof that absorbs rainwater, reflects heat, and sequesters greenhouse gasses; and solar photo-voltaic panels that generate on-site electricity. It will be the first higher education building project in Brooklyn to receive a LEED certification and the first academic building to receive a LEED Gold certification in Brooklyn.

Myrtle Hall Digital Arts Gallery In addition, Myrtle Hall will afford Pratt’s Digital Arts department the space and facilities necessary for its faculty and students to continue their cutting-edge design and research. The digital arts area includes state-of-the-art wired studios/classrooms, a digital resource center, animation labs, a recording studio, graduate studio spaces, and a prominent all-glass gallery in the atrium. The building will also soon allow for an incredible improvement to the Pratt student experience by consolidating all student services offices under one roof.

“This is a momentous occasion for Pratt as it demonstrates the Institute’s commitment to innovative design, environmental sustainability, the renewal of Myrtle Avenue, and most of all to its students,” said Pratt President Thomas F. Schutte, who also has been a driving force in the economic revitalization of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill for more than 10 years as chair of the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership.

“Myrtle Hall will move forward our academic program in digital arts and will tremendously improve Pratt’s services for students while serving as a point of pride for the campus community and our neighbors as the first green building in the Fort Greene/Clinton Hill area.”

Myrtle Hall's interior Design

The design of Myrtle Hall involves two site-specific wall types—a glass curtain wall and a paneled masonry wall—that maintain a contemporary look while relating to the surrounding mercantile brick structures on Myrtle Avenue. Connecting the two wall systems is a four-story atrium with views into and through the building from both sides. The atrium is the building’s most prominent feature and will serve as a second-floor gallery outside of the Office of Admissions to display alumni work, while the fourth-floor gallery will display the work of digital arts students and faculty. The atrium also serves as a symbolic gesture of transparency connecting Myrtle Avenue to the campus and illustrating Pratt’s openness to the community. Other prominent design features include a loft-like light-filled interior that is consistent with the industrial character of Pratt’s creative workspaces.

“Our building design is meant to explore the relationship between Pratt—a great New York institution—and the larger community within which it resides. The development of the two principal wall systems, tied together by the transparent central gathering space, is meant to be a metaphor for that relationship,” said the building’s design architect, Jack Esterson, AIA, who is partner-in-charge and lead designer of the Myrtle Hall building project and partner-in-charge of design at the architecture firm WASA/Studio A. “We hope that it fully expresses a positive relationship and the quality of design innovation that Pratt represents to its students, faculty, and staff, as well as to the city at large.”

Esterson is a 1975 graduate of Pratt’s School of Architecture and a long-time resident of Clinton Hill, where Pratt’s 25-acre Brooklyn campus is located. He has practiced architecture in New York City for 34 years and served as an adjunct instructor at Pratt, where he received an Alumni Achievement Award in 2000.

Myrtle Hall in the Community

Despite its location in a neighborhood of historic importance, Myrtle Avenue began to lose some of its energy in the early 1970s with the decommissioning of the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the demolition of the elevated subway line, which contributed to the decline of the commercial strip. In recent years, it has begun to regain its vitality with Pratt as a major influence. The Institute first opened Prattstore, the college art supply and book store at Emerson Place, in 2005 on Myrtle Avenue driving thousands of students, faculty, and staff to the avenue. The new building will move 200 faculty and staff to Myrtle Avenue and will further promote foot traffic and business along the bustling strip.

Administrative offices at Pratt that will occupy the new space include the Pratt Center for Community Development, and the offices for Admissions, Bursar, Financial Aid, Human Resources, Institutional Advancement, International Student Affairs, and Registrar.

Myrtle Hall will provide the Office of Admissions with visually stunning space for visitors including much needed office space for advisement sessions, convenient parking for prospective students and families, and a large lecture hall for information sessions. The move of the three student services departments—Bursar, Financial Aid, and Registrar—to Myrtle Hall will dramatically improve service to Pratt’s 4,700 students by locating the three offices in one area. 

On the Willoughby side of the new building is a landscaped park designed by Signe Nielsen, professor of architecture at Pratt and principal of Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects. The park provides an attractive and quiet public space. It features light-colored pavement that reflects sunlight to reduce the “heat-island” effect as well as native and drought-resistant plants that require only rainwater. The landscaping was designed to recall the main campus in order to give the complex a sense of continuity.

The building embodies Pratt’s commitment to innovate and demonstrates putting green design into practice. Several years ago, Pratt was one of the first colleges in New York to become a 2030 Challenge Partner and accept Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s challenge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2017. As a member of the Leadership Circle of the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment, Pratt reinforces its commitments to neutralize greenhouse gas emissions by accelerating educational efforts to re-stabilize the earth’s climate.

The Kresge Foundation awarded Pratt a $75,000 Green Planning Grant for the design of Myrtle Hall.  Kresge’s Green Building Initiative, launched in 2003, supports non-profits to pursue sustainable or green building practices and encourages organizations to build green.  

Photos: Alexander Severin/ RAZUMMEDIA 



Detail of paper dress by third place winner Thom Forsyth (Interior Design ’11) Click image above to see more Pratt + Paper & Ralph Pucci photos. A dress created by senior industrial design major Dana Otto as a study in three-dimensional lace, was voted the best design to emerge from the semester-long Pratt + Paper & Ralph Pucci project, a collaboration between an interdisciplinary group of Pratt students and mannequin designer Ralph Pucci.

The Pratt + Paper & Ralph Pucci project involved 50 students from the industrial design, fashion design, interior design, and fine arts departments who were challenged to a semester-long study in texture and form to dress Pucci’s Spring 2011 GIRL 2 mannequins entirely in paper from only a white palette.

The project was led by Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman, acting chair of the Department of Fashion Design at Pratt, with the help of Anita Cooney, chair of the Department of Interior Design; Steve Diskin, chair of the Department of Industrial Design; Josh Longo, visiting instructor, Department of Industrial Design; and Donna Moran, chair of the Department of Fine Arts. 

The 20 clothing designs and four sculptures were unveiled December 7 at the Ralph Pucci International/Gallery 9 Showroom. The exhibition space also featured large pencil drawings of the Pucci mannequins by graduate interior design student KC Weakley.

Selecting the project’s best pieces were Linda Fargo, vice president of fashion, Bergdorf Goodman; Nicole Fischelis, vice president of fashion, Macy’s; Jens Risom, furniture designer; Greg Mills, founder of Greg Mills Showroom; Deborah Turbeville, photographer; Ken Smart, creative director, Ralph Pucci International; Anna Sui, fashion designer; and Vicente Wolf, interior designer.

Paper for the project was donated by Borden & Riley Company, Inc., and Mohawk Fine Papers, Inc.

In announcing the winners, Pucci, considered one of the world’s leading innovators in the mannequin industry, said the judges struggled to select the best designs.

“‘It’s not fair, they’re all so good,’” Pucci recounted hearing from one of the judges. He also repeated hearing from another judge:  “‘This is the best show in New York. It’s better than the MoMA or the Guggenheim.’”

Ultimately, Dana Otto was awarded first place; Meredith Lyon and Beatrice Weiland, juniors in the Department of Fashion Design won second place; and graduate interior design student Tom Forsyth won third place.

A set of sculptural spheres running through the center of the room by senior interior design students Su Ting Chen and Samantha Johnson was named the best sculpture.

Winner Dana Otto said the idea for her piece took root while studying product design at the Bauhaus, after which she began working with laser cutters. Her piece was created by designing snowflake-like shapes, creating them with a laser-cutter, then gluing them together.

She also called her dress a study in three-dimensional lace; the dress evolves from a two-dimensional bodice and then fans out into a lacy skirt.

She said she was “thrilled” with winning first place.

“The show was so much fun to be part of, so this is just the cherry on top.”


Photo: Antoine Bootz



Graduate Interior Design Ranked First for Third Year in a Row; Pratt’s Undergraduate Architecture Program Climbs to Top 10 

Pratt’s undergraduate architecture program has climbed six places and is among the country’s top 10 such programs, according to annual rankings by the influential monthly architecture and design journal, DesignIntelligence (DI). The program was ranked ninth in the country, after being 15th in last year’s list.

The rankings are part of DI’s 2011 “America’s Best Architecture and Design Schools” issue, which it has published annually since 2000.  The journal ranks design programs from throughout the United States based on surveys completed by professionals in architecture and design firms.

For the third year in a row, DI ranked Pratt’s graduate interior design program first in the country. Pratt’s undergraduate interior design program was ranked second, undergraduate industrial design program ranked fourth, and the graduate industrial design program ranked seventh.

DI also included results from its largest architecture student survey to date and found that 95 percent of undergraduate and graduate students from Pratt believe they will be well prepared for their profession upon graduation. The same percentage of students graded the quality of their program as excellent or above average.

The DI rankings are the only school rankings based exclusively on companies’ perceptions of how well schools prepare their graduates for professional practice.

DesignIntelligence is issued by the Design Futures Council (DFC), a global network of design community professionals, including leaders of architecture and design firms, manufacturers, and service providers. 

In separate rankings, CollegeCrunch.org, a college-information site for prospective students, rated Pratt's undergraduate communications design program fourth best in the nation, and its fashion design program the country's fifth best.  



At left, architect Frank Gehry; at right, Pratt President Thomas F. Schutte

Legendary architect and Pritzker Prize winner Frank Gehry took center stage in Memorial Hall on November 10, to hold a conversation about the role of beauty in architecture.

The talk was moderated by Julie V. Iovine, executive editor of The Architect’s Newspaper, with Yael Reisner, author of Architecture and Beauty: Conversations with Architects about a Troubled Relationship (Wiley, 2010).

L-R: Julie Iovine, Frank Gehry, and Yael Reisner before an audience in Memorial Hall Asked by Reisner whether a new generation of architects might allow beauty to exist, Gehry responded, “What’s interesting to me is why we need it at all,” but allowed, “I think there’s a DNA requirement in us all to have art.”

Discrediting the notion that he crumples paper for inspiration, Gehry told students, “Things come to your mind when you don’t expect it…. Be yourself, and you’ll like what you do.”

Much of the conversation focused on how an architect serves the client’s agenda. Reisner chided Gehry for talking “more about budget than meaning or aesthetic goal,” to which Gehry responded, “The budget is the driving thing.” 

 When asked by a student where building materials come into the process of designing a structure, Gehry said the material is not his starting point, though he likes to explore materials’ possibilities. What’s important, he explained, is “how you use the material.”

Gehry said he had created his best-known work, the spectacular Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain, to be covered largely in titanium; the material gave him the flexibility of form to achieve the remarkable structure, which opened in 1997 with its curvaceous, metal-clad forms resembling a ship.

Asked by another student how he felt about keeping to historic style, Gehry said, “I grew up as a modernist. I don’t quote historic forms…I’m not interested in repeating what someone else has done.” 

Gehry also addressed his transformation of Beekman Tower at 8 Spruce Street in Lower Manhattan into a primarily residential 76-story building, considered controversial because it will reshape the downtown skyline as the tallest residential building in New York City, with possibly the most expensive rentals in its neighborhood. Gehry declared that the bay windows were the only change he had made, saying that his “only innovation was to make it 10 stories higher, slimmer than those old chunky buildings.”

The conversation was sponsored by the Steel and the Ornamental Metal Institutes of New York and presented as part of the School of Architecture’s fall lecture series.

Photos: Diana Pau