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.
Alejandro Aravena: The Latest Architecture and News
Back in 2008, ArchDaily embarked on a challenging mission: to provide inspiration, knowledge, and tools to the architects tasked with designing cities. In an effort to further align our strategy with these challenges, we recently introduced monthly themes in order to dig deeper into topics we find relevant in today’s architectural discourse. From architects who don't design to reframing climate change as a global issue, we are celebrating our 11th birthday by asking 11 editors and curators to choose ArchDaily's most inspiring articles.
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.
Alejandro Aravena Shares the Foundational Philosophies at the Core of His Socially Conscious Practice
Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena shares the fundamentals of his design philosophy in a documented interview titled “To Design is to Prefer.” The Pritzker Prize winner founded his practice in 2001, committed to exploring socially conscious design practices. His firm, Elemental, first gained international recognition for its work creating social housing projects in Chile, but its portfolio continues to expand to include work from museums, universities, transportation, and urban infrastructure.
This video highlights the mental process behind Aravena’s personal practices and insights into Elemental’s unique approach to design. The interview begins discussing Aravena’s introduction to architecture as a teen and how architecture, a rather obscure phenomenon to the young Aravena, became his passion. Throughout the film, Aravena flips to the pages of his sketchbooks, illustrating the raw hand of the architect.
Try as we might to inure ourselves to the opinions of others, recognition is a powerful thing. It brings with it a captive (and expectant) audience, not just of admirers but of kingmakers - or, cynically, those who see an opportunity to capitalize. For architects, this can be both a blessing and a curse. Many practices start with the motivation to pursue an idea or concept; as recognition becomes diluted to labels it becomes harder to understand what was distinguishing in the first place. This week saw the announcements of a numerous significant awards - and an interview with a practice determined to shake off the labels that come with recognition. Read on for this week’s review.
Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena and founder of ELEMENTAL has been named the 2018 laureate of Royal Institute of British Architect's (RIBA) Charles Jencks Award. The prize is given in recognition of an individual's exceptional contributions to the field of architecture, both in built and theoretical works. Aravena will receive the prize and give a lecture at RIBA's London headquarters on 15 October.
Architecture, while a profession that is very visibly and tangibly realized, has deep wells of research, thought, and theory that are unseen on the surface of a structure. What urges architects to design the way they do? What are their motivations, their affiliations, their interests? For practitioners and students alike, books on architecture offer invaluable context to the profession, be it practical, inspirational, academic, or otherwise. So, for those of you looking to expand your bookshelf (or confirm your own tastes), we have gathered a broad list of 116 architectural books that we consider of interest to those in the field.
In compiling this list, we sought out titles from different backgrounds with the aim of revealing divergent cultural contexts. From essays to monographs, urban theory to graphic novels, each of the following either engage directly with or flirt on the edges of architecture.
The books on this list were chosen by each of our editors, and are categorized loosely by type. Within their categorization, they are organized alphabetically. Read on to see the books we consider valuable to anyone interested in architecture.
Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer: "To Understand a Building, Go There, Open your Eyes, and Look!"
Six years ago Susan Szenasy and I had the honor of interviewing Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer for Metropolis magazine. While he was a federal appeals judge in Boston, Breyer played a key role in shepherding the design and construction of the John Joseph Moakley United State Courthouse, designed by Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. In 2011 Justice Breyer joined the jury of the Pritzker Prize. Given his long involvement with architecture, I thought it would be fun to catch up with him. So, on the final day of court before breaking for the summer recess, I talked to Justice Breyer about his experience as a design client, how to create good government buildings, and why public architecture matters.
ELEMENTAL, the architecture office led by Alejandro Aravena, has proposed a solution to the physical integration of Villa 31 in the city of Buenos Aires. The building includes a raised linear park that aims to be the new headquarters for the Southern Cone of the Inter-American Development Bank Group and to facilitate access of the residents of the neighborhood to other areas of the city.
Learn more about the project, below.
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.