1. ArchDaily
  2. Alejandro Aravena

Alejandro Aravena: The Latest Architecture and News

Reporting from the Front: 6 Months in 5 Minutes

This week the 2016 Venice Architecture BiennaleReporting 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.

11 Stunning Axonometric Drawings of Iconic Chilean Architecture

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.

Reporting From The Front: Sustainability vs. Security

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

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

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

Google and La Biennale di Venezia Release Online Catalogue of 3700 Images from the 2016 Venice Biennale

Courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia
Courtesy of La Biennale di Venezia

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.

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.

4 Ways You Can Dress Like an Architect

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.

Vintage Festival Shirt via ASOS mac shirt via COS Bjarke Ingels "Yes is More" Tee via Cafe Press Textured Gray Suit via ZARA + 33

Bart Lootsma Dissects, Unpicks and Evaluates the 2016 Venice Biennale

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, is the co-curator of the 2016 Pavilion of Montenegro.

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

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

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

Critical Round-Up: Did Aravena's 2016 Venice Biennale Achieve its Lofty Goals?

The XV International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale opened its doors last month. Under the directorship of Chilean Pritzker Prize-winner Alejandro Aravena, “Reporting the front” asked architects to go beyond “business as usual” and investigate concealed built environments – conflict zones and urban slums, as well as locations suffering from housing shortage, migrations and environmental disasters. Clearly, the aim of this Biennale is to open the profession to new fields of engagement and share knowledge on how to improve people’s quality of life.

This stance that has been highly criticized by Patrik Schumacher, director of Zaha Hadid Architects, who believes that architects “are not equipped to [address these issues]. It’s not the best value for our expertise.” But is this a view shared by the rest of the design world and its critics? What are the limits and benefits of this “humanitarian architecture”? Read on to find out critics’ comments.

The "Reporting the Front" exhibition/ curated by Alejandro Aravena at the 2016 Venice Biennale. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu Gabinete de Arquitectura at the 2016 Venice Biennale. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu NLÉ's Makoko Floating School at the 2016 Venice Biennale. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu "OUR AMAZON FRONTLINE" / curated by Sandra Barclay and Jean Pierre Crousse. Peruvian Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Biennale. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu + 6

EXTRA-ORDINARY: New Practices in Chilean Architecture

The Center for Architecture, in collaboration with CONSTRUCTO, will present the exhibition EXTRA-ORDINARY: New Practices in Chilean Architecture, opening on Wednesday, June 22 at 5:30 pm, curated by CONSTRUCTO foundersJeannette Plaut and Marcelo Sarovic. The opening will begin with a roundtable discussion between Plaut, Sarovic and MoMA Director Glenn Lowry and will be followed by a presentation by architect Smiljan Radic.

Aravena's "Reporting From The Front" Is Nothing Like Koolhaas' 2014 Biennale—But It's Equally as Good

As director of the 2016 Venice Biennale, Alejandro Aravena has sought to shift the very grounds of architecture. Rather than an inward-looking interrogation of the profession's shortcomings, as Rem Koolhaas undertook in 2014, the Chilean Pritzker Prize-winner asks us to gaze in the opposite direction—to the vast swathes of the built horizon that traditionally lay beyond the profession's purview: urban slums, denatured megacities, conflict zones, environmentally compromised ports, rural villages far off the grid.

"We believe that the advancement of architecture is not a goal in itself but a way to improve people’s quality of life," states Aravena in his introduction to event. In other words, his biennale does not ask what architecture ought, yet often fails, to be, but rather what it could, yet often forgets, to do.

The "Reporting From the Front" exhibition. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu Gabinete de Arquitectura's contribution to the "Reporting From the Front" exhibition. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu Vo Trong Nghia's contribution to the "Reporting From the Front" exhibition. Image © Francesco Galli The Spanish Pavilion. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu + 14

From Chile to the World: Reporting From the Venice Biennale 2016

Grupo Talca. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu
Grupo Talca. Image © Laurian Ghinitoiu

In early March, at the Presidential Palace in Chile, a never before seen event took place for Chilean architecture. Architects, government officials as well as the media gathered for the first Venice Biennale press conference to be held in Spanish.

As the first South American selected to curate the Biennale, Alejandro Aravena was excited as he delivered the latest news on “Reporting from the Front,” the XV International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale, which opened its doors to the public on May 28:

“The Biennale, the invited architects, as well as the curators, did not intend to do anything other than open a debate in which architecture can be used to improve quality of life through the sharing of knowledge. This debate holds more significance since we are speaking at the Presidential Palace because it conveys the message that these issues are important. Thank you so much for the opportunity and the chance to be here.”

The President’s presence at an event like this is a symbol that consolidates a chapter of progress and achievements in Chilean architecture. In the last two decades, Chilean architecture has positioned itself in the world as a force to be recognized, and Chilean architects are now obtaining international recognition, which would have been unimaginable a few years ago.

Architecture as a Means of Synthesis – Monocle Films Report from the 2016 Venice Biennale

"Scrutinizing the horizon and looking for a new perspective" is what Alejandro Aravena has encouraged in the 2016 Venice Biennale, Reporting From the Front. "[He] has staged one of the most socially charged Biennales," Gillian Dobias reports, by "exploring the different ways that design can add value." In this, the first of two film reportages from the Biennale, Monocle talks to Aravena about his hopes for stimulating the debate on improving quality of life in the built environment, and tour the Central Pavilion and the Arsenale to uncover what's on show.

12 Things You Need to See at the 2016 Venice Biennale

"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"

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.

A Conversation With Koolhaas, Foster and More at the Biennale's First "Meeting on Architecture"

On May 28th, a selection of participants of the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, including Rem Koolhaas and Norman Foster convened for the first of Alejandro Aravena's "Meetings on Architecture," a series of talks that will take place throughout the Biennale. Under the theme of INFRASTRUCTURE, each invited speaker was given the chance to explain stories behind their participating projects in the Biennale, and the floor was also opened up for questions from the audience.

However, as Aravena explains about the talks, “we have organized them around themes, but architecture by nature always integrates more than one dimension. These Meetings will thus be a way to get from the authors themselves the richness and complexity of the built environment, and what it takes to get things done.” While highlighting unique projects, topics at the first Meeting converged around the focus on shaping the urbanization of emerging economies and the socio-political process and effect of realizing each project. The rest of the speaking panel was comprised by Joan Clos, Andrew Makin and Grupo EPM.