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Wednesday, October 26, 2016


Earlier this year, Alejandro Aravena (above), a 48-year old architect based in Santiago, Chile was named the 2016 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate.  The following gallery celebrates his work.

He is the 41st laureate of the Pritzker Prize and joins four Pritzker laurates from South America Luis Barragán (1980), Oscar Niemeyer (1988), and Paulo Mendes da Rocha (2006).   The Pritzker Prize is sponsored by the Hyatt Foundation and is recognized widely as one of the top architectural awards in the world.

Practicing since 1994, Aravena has consistently pursued architecture with a clarity of vision and great skill.  Each building shows an understanding of how people will use the facility, the thoughtful and appropriate use of materials, and a commitment to creating public spaces to benefit the larger community.

Aravena is the Director of the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016. He was a speaker at TEDGlobal in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2014.

His works include:
--Several buildings for his alma mater, the Universidad Católica de Chile, including the Mathematics School (1998), Medical School (2001), the renovation of the School of Architecture (2004), Siamese Towers (2005) and more recently the UC Innovation Center – Anacleto Angelini (2014).
--Residence and dining hall at St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas — and in Shanghai, China for the pharmaceutical company Novartis.
--Innovative public children’s park in Santiago, Chile.

Anacleto Angelini University of Chile Innovation Center, 2014.  Image by Nina Vidic
What really sets Aravena apart is his commitment to social housing. Since 2000 and the founding of ELEMENTAL, he and his collaborators have consistently realized works with clear social goals. Calling the company a “Do Tank,” as opposed to a think tank, they have built more than 2,500 units using imaginative, flexible and direct architectural solutions for low cost social housing.

The ELEMENTAL team participates in every phase of the complex process of providing dwellings for the underserved: engaging with politicians, lawyers, researchers, residents, local authorities, and builders, in order to obtain the best possible results for the benefit of the residents and society. An understanding of the importance of the aspirations of the inhabitants and their active participation and investment in a project, as well as good design, have contributed to the creation of new opportunities for those from underprivileged backgrounds. This inventive approach enlarges the traditional scope of the architect and transforms the professional into a universal figure with the aim of finding a truly collective solution for the built environment.

The younger generation of architects and designers who are looking for opportunities to affect change, can learn from the way Alejandro Aravena takes on multiple roles instead of the singular position of a designer to facilitate a housing project, and by doing so, discovers that such opportunities may be created by architects themselves. Through this approach, he gives the profession of architect a new dimension, which is necessary to respond to present demands and meet future challenges of the field.

New Novartis (global healthcare research group) building, Shanghai, China, 2015.
Alejandro Aravena epitomizes the revival of a more socially engaged architect, especially in his long-term commitment to tackling the global housing crisis and fighting for a better urban environment for all. He has a deep understanding of both architecture and civil society, as is reflected in his writing, his activism and his designs. The role of the architect is now being challenged to serve greater social and humanitarian needs, and he has clearly, generously and fully responded to this challenge.

For the inspiration he provides through his example and his contributions to architecture and humanity past and future, Alejandro Aravena is the recipient of the 2016 Pritzker Architecture Prize.

Text: Edited from Hyatt Foundation website. 

Bicentennial Children’s Park, 2012, Santiago, Chile. Creatively (above and below) using the slope of San Cristóbal Hill, the Bicentennial Children’s playground in Metropolitan Park was designed to both celebrate 200 years of Chilean independence and to offer children a seemingly endless number of slides.

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