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.”  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 Pritzker Prize is the most important award in the field of architecture, awarded to a living architect whose built work "has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity through the art of architecture." The Prize rewards individuals, not entire offices, as took place in 2000 (when the jury selected Rem Koolhaas instead of his firm OMA) or in 2016 (with Alejandro Aravena selected instead of Elemental); however, the prize can also be awarded to multiple individuals working together, as took place in 2001 (Herzog & de Meuron), 2010 (Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA), and 2017 (Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem, and Ramon Vilalta of RCR Arquitectes).
The award is an initiative funded by Jay Pritzker through the Hyatt Foundation, an organization associated with the hotel company of the same name that Jay founded with his brother Donald in 1957. The award was first given in 1979, when the American architect Philip Johnson, was awarded for his iconic works such as the Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut.
The Pritzker Prize has been awarded for almost forty straight years without interruption, and there are now 18 countries with at least one winning architect. To date, half of the winners are European; while the Americas, Asia, and Oceania share the other twenty editions. So far, no African architect has been awarded, making it the only continent without a winner.
In May 2017, the Chilean firm ELEMENTAL was chosen to design the Art Mill, a cultural center that will be one of the largest in Qatar and will share a neighborhood with the Museum of Islamic Art (by I.M. Pei) and the National Museum of Qatar (by Jean Nouvel). Organized by Malcolm Reading Consultants, the final verdict closed an exhausting call that initially received 489 proposals and extended for two years in its four phases.
After making a trip to Doha (Qatar), Alejandro Aravena spoke with Chilean newspaper El Mercurio and shared details about this project. "One of the things we set out to do is to make this endure for the next 1,000 years," explains the 2016 Pritzker Prize winner. "When you look at industrial facilities, especially silos, archaeological ruins are the kind of things that remain," he adds.
Alejandro Aravena on Moving Architecture "From the Specificity of the Problem to the Ambiguity of the Question"
This interview with the winner of the 2016 Pritzker Prize, Alejandro Aravena, was published last year in Issue 31 of Revista AOA, a Spanish-language magazine published by the Association of Architecture Offices of Chile. The interview was conducted by the editorial committee of Revista AOA—represented by Yves Besançon, Francisca Pulido and Tomás Swett—and is accompanied by photographs by Álvaro González. Aravena's openness and warmth allowed them to deliver a profound questionnaire about his thoughts and architectural projections, especially in light of Aravena's Venice Biennale which took place last year.
In all but the most optimistic architect's career, there will be moments you come across doubts and insecurities about our profession. It is in these moments where the wisdom of the greats who have come before us can help provoke the inspiration needed to face the challenges proposed by architecture and urbanism.
Needing an architectural pick-me-up? Check out some advice from Alejandro Aravena, Álvaro Siza, César Pelli, Francis Kére, Jeanne Gang, Norman Foster and Paulo Mendes da Rocha after the break.
Norman Foster Foundation Includes Aravena, Ive and Other Leading Names in Their 2017 "Future is Now" Conference
Last month the Norman Foster Foundation, created to promote "interdisciplinary thinking and research to help up-and-coming architects, designers and urbanists to anticipate the future," coincided the opening of its new Madrid-based headquarters with an international conference. Future is Now pulled together a broad collection of professionals—including Sir Jonathan Ive, Marc Newson, Olafur Eliasson, Maya Lin, Alejandro Aravena, and Luis Fernández-Galian—who addressed an audience of 1,800 (including 1,100 students) in the Spanish capital's Royal Theater.
Watch the conference in its entirety, or read a summary, after the break.
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.
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.
Público published a report today that Chilean architect and 2016 Pritzker Prize Laureate Alejandro Aravena has been invited to design a project for the EDP (Energias de Portugal), complementing the Aires Mateus-designed Sede da EDP (EDP Headquarters) in Lisbon.
At the end of 2016 Portuguese architect João Luis Carrilho da Graça was invited to design a hotel to support the EDP's new facilities and refurbishment of its existing spaces. Carrilho da Graça is also responsible for the urban plan of the area in which the projects will be developed and built--the Zona da Boavista Nascente, between Santos and the Cais do Sodré
Chilean architect Alejandro has been selected as one of "28 creative geniuses who defined culture in 2016" by the New York Times, in a list that includes personalities such as First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama, singer Lady Gaga, photographer William Eggleston and designer Junya Watanabe.
Aravena achieved spectacular success this year, being awarded the Pritzker Prize in January and acting as director of the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale which opened in May. Through his work, he directed a discussion about the role of architects and their impact on society.
This week the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale—Reporting From the Front—will close. Six months have passed and hundreds of thousands of architects, urbanists, designers and tourists have perused both the National Participations (of which more were represented this year than ever before) and the central exhibition curated by Alejandro Aravena – the first South American to direct the most prestigious event on the architectural calendar. ArchDaily has compiled our most extensive coverage of the event and, as the 15th incarnation of Biennale shuts its gates for the last time, our collection of articles, interviews and publication excerpts remains permanently accessible.
As the birthplace of our most recent Pritzker Prize winner, Alejandro Aravena, Santiago, Chile is full of iconic architecture. Because many of these buildings are situated in busy urban areas, their superior design is easy to miss. In an effort to encourage viewers to slow down and appreciate the volume, facades, context, and function of these urban landmarks, Benjamin Oportot and Alexandra Gray of San Sebastian University guided their 4th-year students in producing axonometric drawings of 11 buildings. The project centered on medium-sized office buildings built between 1989 and 2015, particularly focusing on their use of reinforced concrete.
Based on his experience in curating the 15th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia 2016 in Venice, the Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena inspired the LafargeHolcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction to organize a debate on sustainability and security. Framed as one of this year Architecture Biennale’s discussions, the event will foreground topics that were raised in the context of the exhibition “Reporting from the Front” and expose them to “real life reports” from the forefront of architecture and related disciplines.
Growing security concerns, specifically pertaining to the world supply chain and global flows of construction materials as well as the
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.
Google and La Biennale di Venezia Release Online Catalogue of 3700 Images from the 2016 Venice Biennale
Google and La Biennale di Venezia have teamed up to release an online catalogue of the 2016 Venice Biennale. Hosted on Google’s Arts and Culture platform, the digital archive contains over 3700 images and videos from the 15th International Architecture Exhibition “Reporting From The Front”, curated by Alejandro Aravena, and a selection of National Pavilions and ancillary events.
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.
1. All black.
2. Black with a bit of grey.
3. Black with a bit of white.
4. Match different shades of black.
Done. Go home.
All jokes aside, there has never been a set uniform in the architecture profession. The truth is, there are a large variety of different architectural practices, and one’s attire to do architectural work often depends on each firm’s unique culture. There are corporate firms composed of hundreds of people in office blocks where “corporate” clothing is expected, or there are atelier style firms where jeans and a simple shirt are more appropriate for the design-build.
The architecture world is unique in that we are expected to be creative like artists, execute like engineers, negotiate like businessmen, and make like craftsmen but at the same time are asked to discover our own unique style and approach. Hybridity and improvisation abounds in architecture, which is definitely reflected in our fashion choices. In general though, the architect’s wardrobe is governed by four key words: eccentric, professional, relaxed and... well, still largely black. Here we’ve profiled a few tips on how to dress by these four qualities.
In two lectures delivered by Bart Lootsma, Professor and Head of Institute for Architectural Theory and History at the University of Innsbruck, the 2016 Venice Biennale—Reporting From the Front—is dissected, unpicked and evaluated through the national participations (pavilions) and Alejandro Aravena's central exhibitions. Lootsma, who has broadcast the lectures as publicly available resources on architecturaltheory.eu, is the co-curator of the 2016 Pavilion of Montenegro.