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
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.

2016 Pritzker Prize Winner Alejandro Aravena's Work in 15 Images

14:00 - 20 January, 2016
© Cristobal Palma / Estudio Palma
© Cristobal Palma / Estudio Palma

Alejandro Aravena is the first Chilean architect to ever receive a Pritzker Prize. Praised for reviving the socially engaged architect, the 48-year-old architect and executive director of ELEMENTAL has proved architecture's ability to solve pressing global issues through his diverse portfolio. Read on to see 15 projects that exemplify Aravena's contribution to architecture so far. 

Three Years in Villa Verde, ELEMENTAL’s Incremental Housing Project in Constitución, Chile

14:00 - 18 January, 2016

Where were you when it happened? On February 27, 2010 an 8.8-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck Chile, causing destruction across the country. Ask any Chilean what they were doing at the time, and they will have a story to tell.

Alejandro Aravena Wins 2016 Pritzker Prize

09:10 - 13 January, 2016

Alejandro Aravena has been named as the winner of the 2016 Pritzker Prize. Highlighting his dedication to improve urban environments and to address the global housing crisis, the Pritzker Prize jury praised the way in which the Chilean architect has "risen to the demands of practicing architecture as an artful endeavor, as well as meeting today's social and economic challenges." Aravena is the 41st Pritzker Prize laureate and the first Chilean to receive the award.

At 48 years of age, Aravena has a large portfolio of private, public and educational projects in Chile, the USA, Mexico, China and Switzerland. But perhaps more notably, through his “Do Tank” firm ELEMENTAL he has managed to build 2,500 units of social housing, engaging in the public housing policies of governments where he works and taking an opportunistic approach to market forces to generate a powerful impact on lower-income communities.

"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,” explained the Jury in their citation. “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 Alejandro Aravena has clearly, generously and fully responded to this challenge."

UC Innovation Center – Anacleto Angelini, San Joaquín Campus, Universidad Católica de Chile. Santiago, Chile 2014. Image © Nina Vidic Monterrey Housing. Monterrey, Mexico 2010. Image © Ramiro Ramirez Medical School, Universidad Católica de Chile. Santiago, Chile 2004. Image © Roland Halbe Siamese Towers, San Joaquín Campus, Universidad Católica de Chile. Santiago, Chile 2005. Image © Cristobal Palma +23

ArchDaily Readers Tell Us Who Should Win the 2016 Pritzker Prize

09:30 - 8 January, 2016

For over 30 years, the Pritzker Prize has awarded some of the most inspirational and accomplished architects on the planet, and it has long helped to shape public discussion about current trends and ideas in architecture. Recent years have been no exception; in 2014, for example, the jury's citation of Shigeru Ban's humanitarian work sparked a heated discussion about the social duties of architects.

Who Should Win the 2016 Pritzker Prize?

10:15 - 14 December, 2015

The Pritzker Prize has announced that it will be revealing its 2016 laureate on the 13th of January, starting what is sure to be a month of intense speculation about who the next winner of architecture's most prestigious prize might be. Will the jury honor an influential member of the old guard, as they did this March when they gave the award to the late Frei Otto? Or will they recognize a young architect who has made a big splash? Will they reward virtuoso spatial design, or will they acknowledge the role of social impact, as they did in awarding the prize to Shigeru Ban in 2014? And will the award go to an individual or to two or more architects working together, as it did in 2010 when SANAA scooped the prize?

Watch The Pritzker Prize Award Ceremony Live Today (8pm ET)

12:00 - 15 May, 2015
2015 Pritzker Prize Laureate Frei Otto. Image © Ingenhoven und Partner Architekten, Düsseldorf
2015 Pritzker Prize Laureate Frei Otto. Image © Ingenhoven und Partner Architekten, Düsseldorf

Tonight the Pritzker Prize will hold its annual award ceremony, this year honoring the work of 2015 laureate Frei Otto, who sadly passed away the day before he was announced as this year's winner on March 10th. This year, the ceremony will be hosted in Miami Beach at Frank Gehry's New World Center, the first time the ceremony has been held in the Miami Area. Speakers will include Tom Pritzker and Chair of the Jury, Lord Peter Palumbo, alongside a selection of past Pritzker Laureates.

Architects' Reactions to Frei Otto's Pritzker Prize Win

23:00 - 31 March, 2015
© Ingenhoven und Partner Architekten, Düsseldorf
© Ingenhoven und Partner Architekten, Düsseldorf

After news of Frei Otto winning the 2015 Pritzker Prize broke, the internet was filled with comments on his influence on the profession over the past half a century of architecture. Of course, with the news of the Pritzker sadly packaged with news of his death, the impulse for many to offer some words in remembrance heightened the outpouring of opinion.

Frei Otto and the Importance of Experimentation in Architecture

09:30 - 18 March, 2015
via Pinterest / Usuario u2toyou 浅田
via Pinterest / Usuario u2toyou 浅田

In their notes on the selection of Frei Otto as the 2015 Pritzker Prize Laureate, the jury described him as an architect that took his work beyond the boundaries of the discipline, as an architect who was also a “researcher, inventor, form-finder, engineer, builder, teacher, collaborator, environmentalist, [and] humanist.”

To learn more about Otto’s multidisciplinary approach to architecture as well as his emphasis on experimentation, we turned to an interview he did with Juan María Songel in 2004, published in the book A Conversation with Frei Otto. In the interview, Otto discusses numerous topics of interest and relevance to architecture in the 21st century, and in particular the importance of experimentation and research, declaring: “Productive research must be brave!”

Video: Frei Otto Experimenting with Soap Bubbles

08:00 - 15 March, 2015

“The computer can only calculate what is already conceptually inside of it; you can only find what you look for in computers. Nevertheless, you can find what you haven’t searched for with free experimentation.” - From A Conversation with Frei Otto, by Juan Maria Songel

"Spanning the Future" Documentary Traces the Life and Work of Frei Otto

08:00 - 13 March, 2015
Aviary at the Munich Zoo. Image Courtesy of Atelier Frei Otto Warmbronn
Aviary at the Munich Zoo. Image Courtesy of Atelier Frei Otto Warmbronn

Frei Otto: Spanning the Future,” a documentary profiling the internationally renowned architect and engineer Frei Otto, has been in production since 2012. Otto, who was named the 2015 Pritzker Prize laureate on Tuesday evening (following his death on Monday night), first gained international recognition half a century ago as a pioneer in designing tensile structures using metal frames and lightweight membranes.  

12 Things You Didn't Know About Pritzker Laureate Frei Otto

15:07 - 11 March, 2015
Hall at the International Garden Exhibition, 1963, Hamburg, Germany © Atelier Frei Otto Warmbronn
Hall at the International Garden Exhibition, 1963, Hamburg, Germany © Atelier Frei Otto Warmbronn

Frei Otto passed away this past Monday, a day before being internationally celebrated as the Pritzker Prize’s 40th laureate. The first architect to ever receive the Prize posthumously, Otto was a brilliant inventor, architect and engineer who pioneered some of history’s most ambitious tensile structures

2015 Pritzker Prize Winner Frei Otto’s Work in 10 Images

12:00 - 11 March, 2015
Roofing for main sports facilities in the Munich Olympic Park for the 1972 Summer Olympics. Image © Atelier Frei Otto Warmbronn
Roofing for main sports facilities in the Munich Olympic Park for the 1972 Summer Olympics. Image © Atelier Frei Otto Warmbronn

On Tuesday evening the Pritzker Prize jury named Frei Otto as the 40th recipient of the award, making him the second German to receive the award and the first winner to receive it posthumously. Otto was both an architect and a structural engineer, perhaps best known for the 1972 Munich Olympic Stadium

Twitter Critics React to Frei Otto's Posthumous Pritzker

10:30 - 11 March, 2015
Diplomatic Club Heart Tent, 1980, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Image © Atelier Frei Otto Warmbronn
Diplomatic Club Heart Tent, 1980, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Image © Atelier Frei Otto Warmbronn

The sudden and unexpected announcement of the Pritzker Prize yesterday evening sent shockwaves through the architecture world. With the sad death of the Prize's latest laureate Frei Otto on Monday, the Pritzker made the unprecedented decision to announce the winner two weeks early, ensuring that Otto's final, crowning achievement would make its way into the obituaries of this great man.

Of course, despite the sudden nature of the announcement, the many critics on Twitter were on hand to lend their initial thoughts in what was an interesting mix of congratulations, sadness and nostalgia. Read on after the break for all the reactions.

Frei Otto Posthumously Named 2015 Pritzker Laureate

09:05 - 11 March, 2015
© Ingenhoven und Partner Architekten, Düsseldorf
© Ingenhoven und Partner Architekten, Düsseldorf

Frei Otto has just been named the 40th recipient of the Pritzker Prize - two weeks prior to the expected official announcement. The abrupt news has been released early due the unfortunate passing of the German architect and structural engineer, who was best known for the 1972 Munich Olympic Stadium. The pioneering tensile structure, which stood in considerable contrast to the strict, authoritarian stadium that was its predecessor, was meant to present a different, more compassionate face for Germany. 

Video: Frei Otto's German Pavilion at Expo 67

06:00 - 11 March, 2015

Last night German architect Frei Otto was selected as the 2015 Pritzker Prize Laureate, the second German to win the award and the first to receive the award posthumously. The video above shows the impressive construction process of Otto’s German Pavilion at the 1967 International and Universal Exposition in Montreal (although unfortunately without sound).

2015 Pritzker Prize to be Announced March 23rd

00:00 - 18 February, 2015
© The Hyatt Foundation / The Pritzker Architecture Prize
© The Hyatt Foundation / The Pritzker Architecture Prize

We’ve just learned that the Pritzker Prize will be announced on Monday, March 23rd at 10am EDT. This prize — architecture’s most prestigious — has been awarded annually since 1979. Past winners include Philip JohnsonZaha HadidRem KoolhaasOscar NiemeyerNorman Foster and Toyo Ito (full list). You can see ArchDaily’s coverage of the prize here. Stay tuned for the latest updates on this year’s winner. Who do you think deserves to win?