February 24, 2013

Students Mourn Death of Cornell Architecture Professor

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Prof. Kevin Pratt, architecture, who was called a “visionary” by students, died Tuesday of natural causes, according to a University press release. He was 43.

Pratt was a registered architect in New York State and an expert in sustainable design who –– following his semester as a visiting lecturer in 2006 –– became an assistant professor in the College of Architecure, Art and Planning in July 2007, according to a University press release.

“We are stricken to the heart by this loss,” said Kent Kleinman, dean of AAP, in the press release.

Sonny Xu ’13, who was a thesis advisee of Pratt’s, said Pratt was involved in numerous on-campus projects and organizations.

“Cornell is going to suffer because of this loss. I don’t think [Pratt] is replaceable,” Xu said. “I could not ask for a better mentor, boss or professor. He is also a good friend.”

Max Vanatta ’16 echoed Xu’s sentiments, adding Pratt was a formative influence in his life.

“He has shaped my experience at Cornell, just being able to talk to someone like him,” Vanatta said. “He was such a visionary, and even though he was a visionary, he was down-to-earth.”

Students said Pratt’s personality was distinctively energetic in a way that enhanced the classes he taught and built long-lasting memories.

“He [was] always so energetic, friendly and down-to-earth. He [was] also very intelligent and full of crazy ideas,” Xu said. “He really inspire[d] me and [got] me excited about my project.”

Lucia Lee ’16 added that Pratt had “the energy of three people.”

Vanatta, Xu and Wills said Pratt’s class, first-year design studio, was one of the most influential experiences at Cornell.

“His class was the first that I had ever taken at Cornell,” said Allie Wills ’16. “His class was one of the only lectures I always looked forward to.”

Wills and Lee said Pratt took the class on a hike for the first class.

“He had so much to say about everything. He walked so fast and he talked so much you had to run to keep up with him … It really jumpstarted [the architecture Class of 2016’s] friendship,” Wills said. “He got us excited for college.”

Students said Pratt shaped their academic experiences, including their professional goals.

“He reshaped the way I think about architecture and design, just the way I see everything,” Xu said. “I am dedicating my thesis to him, because he made my education here at Cornell a full and meaningful one.”

According to Vanatta, Pratt transformed his perception of architecture.

“He was able to frame our view on architecture,” Vanatta said. “He would make it be about the world and about the impact of everything we do.”

Lucia Lee ’16 said Pratt helped put their coursework into perspective.

“He is the person who contributed so much to what we are actually learning, how architecture is really applicable to our everyday lives,” Lee said.

Vanatta also described Pratt as an exceptional teacher.

“Some people know everything, and some people can explain everything. He was one of those people that was both,” Vanatta said. “You could just talk to him for two hours and he would be perfectly fine with it.”

Xu said he felt a deep personal loss upon hearing the news of Pratt’s death.

“The morning when I heard about it, I could not just take it. It was too much,” he said.

Original Author: Erica Augenstein