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Elemental

Spotlight: Alejandro Aravena

08:00 - 22 June, 2017
Innovation Center UC - Anacleto Angelini. Image © Nico Saieh
Innovation Center UC - Anacleto Angelini. Image © Nico Saieh

As founder of the “Do Tank” firm ELEMENTAL, Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena (born on June 22, 1967) is perhaps the most socially-engaged architect to receive the Pritzker Prize. Far from the usual aesthetically driven approach, Aravena explains that “We don’t think of ourselves as artists. Architects like to build things that are unique. But if something is unique it can’t be repeated, so in terms of it serving many people in many places, the value is close to zero.” [1] For Aravena, the architect’s primary goal is to improve people's way of life by assessing both social needs and human desires, as well as political, economic and environmental issues.

The Construction Details of ELEMENTAL's Incremental Housing

08:00 - 18 June, 2017
The Construction Details of ELEMENTAL's Incremental Housing, Quinta Monroy, Section © ELEMENTAL
Quinta Monroy, Section © ELEMENTAL

Good location, harmonious growth over time, concern for urban design, and the delivery of a structure that has "middle-class DNA" are the key points of the ABC of incremental housing, developed in detail by the Chilean architects ELEMENTAL. It's a question of ensuring a balance between "low-rise high-density, without overcrowding, with the possibility of expansion (from social housing to middle-class dwelling)."

Following this line of action, the office has released the drawings of four of the projects carried out under these principles, to serve as good examples of design which have already been implemented and proven in reality. However, despite making them available for free consultation and download, the architects emphasize that these designs must be adjusted to comply with the regulations and structural codes of each locality, using relevant building materials. 

ELEMENTAL Selected to Design One of Qatar's Largest Cultural Centers – Doha's "Art Mill"

08:45 - 15 May, 2017
ELEMENTAL Selected to Design One of Qatar's Largest Cultural Centers – Doha's "Art Mill", ELEMENTAL's "Art Mill" concept design. Image © ELEMENTAL / Malcolm Reading Consultants
ELEMENTAL's "Art Mill" concept design. Image © ELEMENTAL / Malcolm Reading Consultants

ELEMENTAL, led by Pritzker Prize laureate Alejandro Aravena, has been selected as the design team for the Art Mill project in Doha, Qatar. Following a 26-strong longlist and a shortlist of eight internationally renowned practices, including Atelier Bow-Wow and the Renzo Piano Building Workshop, the Chilean practice have been lauded by the jury for developing "a serene artwork, [in which] the structure is the architecture." Once complete, the project will join two other nearby cultural heavyweights: the Museum of Islamic Art, designed by I.M. Pei, and the National Museum of Qatar designed by Jean Nouvel.

Alejandro Aravena Wins 2017 Gothenburg Prize for Sustainable Development

12:10 - 25 April, 2017
Alejandro Aravena Wins 2017 Gothenburg Prize for Sustainable Development, © Manuel Albornoz
© Manuel Albornoz

2016 Pritzker Prize winner Alejandro Aravena has been selected as the 2017 recipient of the Gothenburg Prize for Sustainable Development, an international award that recognizes an individual or group for “outstanding performance and achievements towards a sustainable future. Given annually since 2005, the prize has previously been awarded to environmentalists, scientists, engineers and political advocates – Aravena is the first architect to receive the honor.

Half A House Builds A Whole Community: Elemental’s Controversial Social Housing

07:00 - 24 October, 2016
Half A House Builds A Whole Community: Elemental’s Controversial Social Housing, Villa Verde in Constitución, Chile by Elemental. Image via 99 Percent Invisible
Villa Verde in Constitución, Chile by Elemental. Image via 99 Percent Invisible

In Chile, a middle-class family may inhabit a house of around 80 square meters, whereas a low-income family might be lucky enough to inhabit 40 square meters. They can’t afford a large “good” house, and are henceforth often left with smaller homes or building blocks; but why not give them half a “good” house, instead of a finished small house? In the 1970s a professor by the name John F.C. Turner, teaching at a new masters program at MIT called “Urban Settlement Design In Developing Countries”, developed an idea surrounding the concept that people can build for themselves. 99% Invisible has covered a story, produced by Sam Greenspan, on how this idea has evolved, and what it has turned into: Half A House.  

Villa Verde expansion under construction. Image via 99 Percent Invisible Quinta Monroy project in Iquique, Chile by Elemental. Image via 99 Percent Invisible Villa Verde build-out in progress. Image via 99 Percent Invisible Dronve view of Villa Verde in Constitución, Chile by Elemental. Image via 99 Percent Invisible + 5

OBR with Michel Desvigne Wins Competition to Design New Central Park in Prato, Italy

16:20 - 12 October, 2016
OBR with Michel Desvigne Wins Competition to Design New Central Park in Prato, Italy, © OBR Paolo Brescia and Tommaso Principi with Michel Desvigne Paysagiste
© OBR Paolo Brescia and Tommaso Principi with Michel Desvigne Paysagiste

OBR Paolo Brescia and Tommaso Principi and Michel Desvigne Paysagiste have been announced of the winners of first prize in the international competition to design the new Parco Centrale (Central Park) in Prato, Italy.

The 230-team competition asked architects to design a new 3-hectare urban park in Prato’s historical city center on the site of the former city hospital, within the perimeter of the city walls. The project is intended to meet the needs of a contemporary city while driving socio-economic development of the city center through “enhancements to its touristic vocation, sustainability and accessibility.”

The jury, chaired by architect Bernard Tschumi, unanimously selected the winning proposal for “its ability to offer to the city of Prato an original, innovative and practical solution.” Commented Tschumi on the design, “The project is remarkable in the way it understands and celebrates the history of Prato and of its medieval walls. At the same time, it looks to the future and to the development of the city and its diverse population.”

The jury also released the full rankings of the 10 finalist teams. Learn about the winning design and see the entries from all 10 of the finalists, after the break.

5 Initiatives That Show the Rise of Open Source Architecture

13:30 - 24 September, 2016
5 Initiatives That Show the Rise of Open Source Architecture

In architecture, perhaps the most remarkable change heralded by the 20th was the radical rethinking of housing provision which it brought, driven by a worldwide population explosion and the devastation of two world wars. Of course, Modernism’s reappraisal of the design and construction of housing was one part of this trajectory, but still Modernism was underpinned by a traditional process, needing clients, designers and contractors. Arguably more radical were a small number of fringe developments, such as mail-order houses in the US and Walter Segal’s DIY home designs in the UK. These initiatives sought to turn the traditional construction process on its head, empowering people to construct their own homes by providing materials and designs as cheaply as possible.

In the 21st century, the spirit of these fringe movements is alive and well, but the parameters have changed somewhat: with a rise in individualism, and new technologies sparking the “maker movement,” the focus has shifted away from providing people with the materials to construct a fixed design, and towards improving access to intellectual property, allowing more people to take advantage of cheap and effective designs. The past decade has seen a number of initiatives aimed at spreading open source architectural design--read on to find out about five of them.

Surface Magazine Examines Alejandro Aravena's "Architecture of Improvement"

08:00 - 26 July, 2016
Surface Magazine Examines Alejandro Aravena's "Architecture of Improvement", Alejandro Aravena in his exhibit at the Arsenale, created using waste material generated from the last Venice Biennale. Photo © James Mollison / Surface. Image Courtesy of Surface Magazine
Alejandro Aravena in his exhibit at the Arsenale, created using waste material generated from the last Venice Biennale. Photo © James Mollison / Surface. Image Courtesy of Surface Magazine

It’s the Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena’s habit to look at architecture as a way to help people, and not to simply dazzle them with form. The ethos and practice of Aravena’s Santiago-based firm, Elemental, is essentially the blueprint for each national pavilion at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale (through Nov. 27), which he is directing. His brief, “Reporting from the Front,” asks a simple question, one that’s increasingly difficult to address: How can the advancement of architecture, given physical needs and local contexts, actually improve the quality of people’s lives? 

The question is central to how Aravena approaches his own work. Before he puts pen to paper, the economic, environmental, political, and social dimensions of the built environment are fully taken into account. 

Alejandro Aravena on Design, Venice and Why He Paused His Career to Open a Bar

04:00 - 21 July, 2016

In an exclusive half-hour interview with Alejandro Aravena, Monocle's Josh Fehnert questions the recent Pritzker Prize-laureate on Chilean architecture and urbanism, why he considers simple design as the key to alleviating the world's biggest woes, and the conception and ultimate result of his 15th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia

12 Things You Need to See at the 2016 Venice Biennale

04:00 - 6 June, 2016
"Reporting From the Front". Image © Italo Rondinella
"Reporting From the Front". Image © Italo Rondinella

There is an enormous intensity of information, knowledge and ideas on display at this year's Venice Architecture Biennale, Reporting From the Front. With all the Executive Editors and Editors-in-Chief of ArchDaily's platforms in English, Spanish and (Brazilian) Portuguese in Venice for the opening of the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale—plus co-founder David Basulto and European Editor-at-Large James Taylor-Foster, who curated this year's Nordic Pavilion—we've pooled together twelve of our initial favourite exhibitions and must-see shows.

Alejandro Aravena's Downloadable Housing Plans and the Real Meaning of "Open-Source Urbanism"

08:00 - 5 June, 2016
Alejandro Aravena's Downloadable Housing Plans and the Real Meaning of "Open-Source Urbanism", Courtesy of Elemental
Courtesy of Elemental

Earlier this year, we reported that 2016 Pritzker Prize winner Alejandro Aravena announced that his practice, ELEMENTAL, released four of their social housing designs available to the public for open source use. A recent article published by Urbanisms in beta discusses what exactly “open source use” means to the architecture world, and how we may see these designs applied to projects in the future.

Alejandro Aravena Is Profiled by Michael Kimmelman for T Magazine

06:00 - 23 May, 2016
Alejandro Aravena Is Profiled by Michael Kimmelman for T Magazine, © Anthony Cotsifas
© Anthony Cotsifas

On the eve of the Venice Biennale, The New York TimesMichael Kimmelman sits down with Alejandro Aravena in an intimate profile for T Magazine’s Beauty Issue. Visiting a number of projects by the architect and his office, Elemental, Kimmelman experiences socially minded architecture in an age of informal growth, income inequality, and mounting threats linked to climate change, all while learning about Aravena’s own path and growth as a practitioner. Although told by colleagues that he might be standoffish, Kimmelman finds Aravena to be “earnest, open, a little nerdy –– and deadly serious.”

Why Aravena's Open Source Project is a Huge Step Toward Better, Cheaper Housing for Everyone

09:50 - 29 April, 2016
Why Aravena's Open Source Project is a Huge Step Toward Better, Cheaper Housing for Everyone

This article by Paperhouses founder Joana Pacheco was originally published by Metropolis Magazine as "Aravena's Small Step, Open Source's Big Leap."

When Alejandro Aravena was awarded the Pritzker Prize earlier this month, he made a remarkable and significant announcement: he had published the plans of four of his social housing projects on his website, for anyone and everyone to study and use.

Through the work of his firm Elemental, Aravena is known for his interest in incremental, participatory housing design: a common-sense way of working within financial restraints and a cornerstone of Elemental’s studio work. The motto—focus first on what is most difficult to achieve, what cannot be done individually, and what will guarantee the common good in the future—resulted in a “half a house.” First introduced over a decade ago, the model consists of an expandable 40 square-meter (431 square-feet) container with basic infrastructure (partitions, structural and firewalls, bathroom, kitchen, stairs, a roof) built-in and added to over time. It is not only an achievement from a conceptual and project management standpoint, but also an aesthetically open and diverse project. From this one idea stemmed 100 variations.

Alejandro Aravena's Pritzker Prize Acceptance Speech

14:45 - 25 April, 2016
Courtesy of ©The Hyatt Foundation / The Pritzker Architecture Prize
Courtesy of ©The Hyatt Foundation / The Pritzker Architecture Prize

ArchDaily is pleased to share, with the permission of The Hyatt Foundation and The Pritzker Architecture Prize, a transcript of Alejandro Aravena's acceptance speech at the April 4, 2016 award ceremony for the 2016 Pritzker Prize presented at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

Renzo Piano and ELEMENTAL Among 8 Finalists in Qatar's Art Mill International Design Competition

19:01 - 20 April, 2016
Renzo Piano and ELEMENTAL Among 8 Finalists in Qatar's Art Mill International Design Competition, © Qatar Museums and Malcolm Reading Consultants
© Qatar Museums and Malcolm Reading Consultants

Qatar Museums has announced a shortlist of eight finalists that will move on to the third and final stage of the Art Mill International Design Competition in Doha. On a site extending into the Arabian Sea that was only recently occupied by Qatar Flour Mills, Art Mill will integrate gallery and exhibition space with facilities for education, events, conservation, art handling, and research. Joining the Museum of Islamic Art designed by I.M. Pei, and the still under-construction National Museum of Qatar, designed by Jean Nouvel, in the words of the competition brief, “Art Mill will and extend and intensify the cultural quarter being developed in Doha.”

ELEMENTAL Releases Plans of 4 Housing Projects for Open-Source Use

21:00 - 5 April, 2016
ELEMENTAL Releases Plans of 4 Housing Projects for Open-Source Use

The 2016 Pritzker laureate Alejandro Aravena has announced that his firm, ELEMENTAL, has chosen to release four of their social housing designs to the public for open source use. Speaking in a panel discussion held by the Pritzker Prize earlier tonight titled Challenges Ahead for the Built Environment, Aravena stressed the need to work together to tackle the challenge of rapid migration that is taking place all around the globe, a message closely tied to the theme of the upcoming Venice Biennale which Aravena is directing. In this spirit, DWGs of these four designs - which offer the basic elements of a house at a low budget and encourage the residents to expand into an adjacent space as they find the money to do so - will be available for architects worldwide to learn from.

It’s Elementary (Not): On the Architecture of Alejandro Aravena

09:30 - 25 January, 2016
Siamese Towers. Image © Cristobal Palma
Siamese Towers. Image © Cristobal Palma

When reading about the work of Alejandro Aravena, it can sometimes seem like two distinct discussions: one about his widely praised social housing innovations, and another about his impressive (albeit more conventional in scope) buildings for universities and municipalities. In this post originally shared on his Facebook page Hashim Sarkis, the Dean of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, connects the two apparently separate threads of Aravena's architecture, discovering the underlying beliefs that guide this year's Pritzker Prize winner.

Much of the work of Alejandro Aravena, whether designed alone or with the group ELEMENTAL, embodies a eureka moment, a moment where after a careful interrogation of the program with the client, the architect comes up with a counterintuitive but simple response to the charge. (For the computer center at the Catholic University, the labs have to be both dark and well-lit. For the social housing in Iquique, instead of a full good house that you cannot afford, you get a half good house that you can). In turn, these simple equations are embodied in buildings that usually acquire similarly simple forms. The clients and occupants repeat the “aha” with Aravena’s same tone and realization. “If I cannot convincingly convey the design idea over the phone, then I know it is a bad idea,” he says.

Las Cruces Lookout Point. Image © Iwan Baan Design for Casa OchoQuebradas. Image Courtesy of ELEMENTAL Innovation Center UC - Anacleto Angelini. Image © Nico Saieh Quinta Monroy housing. Image Courtesy of ELEMENTAL + 11

AD Round-Up: The Best of Contemporary Chilean Architecture

06:00 - 22 January, 2016
AD Round-Up: The Best of Contemporary Chilean Architecture, Innovation Center UC / Elemental. Image © Nico Saieh
Innovation Center UC / Elemental. Image © Nico Saieh

Chilean architecture, having long stood in the shadow of more established design traditions in Europe and North America, has been catapulted to the forefront of global attention with the news that architect Alejandro Aravena has been named the 41st Pritzker Prize Laureate – the first Chilean to receive the award. He is also the director of this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale, which focuses on the role of architects in improving the living conditions of people across the globe, especially in cases where scarce resources and the “inertia of reality” stand in the way of progress.