Pratt Institute

200 Willoughby Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11205

Pratt Institute Design and Planning Dept.

The Foundations Lab in the Main Building on Pratt Institute’s Brooklyn campus is a space designed to spark curiosity about the natural world. Articulated skeletons and taxidermy animals are joined by a wall of flourishing green plants and cabinets of pinned butterflies and beetles. These specimens are not just meant to be seen, but to be studied, sketched, and examined. Microscopes are on hand to get a closer look at a coral branch or chunk of amethyst; drawers contain collections of shells, driftwood, and hundreds of pigments in every hue.

“The Foundations Lab is a physical space that allows students to investigate and study the relationship between art, design, and the natural world,” said Leslie Mutchler, chairperson of Foundation. “Our lab is outfitted with tactile objects, both natural and man-made, and living, growing organisms to aid in that study and exploration. You may find a nautilus shell, a praying mantis, a small jar of saturated ultramarine blue pigment, or an African milk tree plant. While the lab’s mission centers on physicality—touching, turning, experiencing the objects in person—we’ve been working to make the collection and our programming accessible virtually with the pivot to remote learning.”

Each aspect of the Lab is aimed at fostering a continuous search for knowledge, something that is a yearlong focus of the Foundation curriculum for incoming students. The new space is the initiative of two Professors of Foundation Art—Doug Wirls and Iona Fromboluti Wirls— who made a personal gift with additional financial support from an individual donor, and the Alexander C. & Tillie S. Speyer Foundation. Doug Wirls and Iona Fromboluti Wirls wanted to bring together the collections used for their respective Foundation coursework to engage students in the long tradition of hands-on study with the natural world and with new technology.

“The Foundation Department has lacked a place that would represent and support what we teach, a center for study and connection for the students and faculty,” Doug Wirls said. “In choosing to use nature as the theme for the Foundations Lab, we are recognizing that the investigation of the natural world and its systems is increasingly essential to education in all areas of art and design, hence foundational for all.”

King Rose is proud to have built the new Foundations Lab at Pratt.

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