In 2016, Pritzker Prize winner Alejandro Aravena announced that his firm, ELEMENTAL, had released the rights to four of their social housing projects, and all documents would be uploaded to their website for public use. Aravena’s goal was to start a movement in which architects would work together to tackle the world’s challenges around housing shortages and affordability, especially with increased migration. The shared drawing sets and a description of the project’s principles provide architects with the necessary documentation for building a low-cost home, encouraging designers to do the same with their work, contractors to assist in building these homes, and governments to shift their thinking of how they can approach mass urbanization. Six years later, how has the concept of open-source architecture progressed, and how has it impacted the architectural profession ever since?
Elemental: The Latest Architecture and News
In New Mexico, irrigation channels that have been in continuous operation for three centuries replenish and nourish the wetlands of the American Southwest. These channels are known as Acequias – communally managed water systems built on democratic tradition. Members of the community own water rights, who then elect a three-person team to oversee the channels. In Cairo and Barcelona, Tahrir Square and Plaza de Catalunya have acted as important sites for voicing political dissatisfaction. The Tahrir Square protests of 2011, for instance, resulted in the eventual toppling of an almost 30-year-old government.
Following Qatar's ambitious museum-building project to further promote cultural institutes in the country, Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Chairperson of Qatar Museums has announced that OMA, Herzog & de Meuron, and ELEMENTAL will be designing three new museums in Doha that explore the themes of Islamic art, contemporary art, and evolution of the automobile industry respectively.
Under the theme of "Crossroads: Building the Resilient City", the 2021 Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism explores cities through architecture, design, and urban planning by highlighting "the virtues and dialogue of crossroads of knowledge" through exhibitions, installations, and events, that tackle the city of tomorrow led by architect Dominique Perrault. With more than 100 participating cities across five continents and installations by world renowned architects and designers, the Seoul Biennale will take place at various locations across the city from September 16 until October 31st, 2021.
"We are Not the Protagonists, Architecture is Just the Background": In Conversation with Alejandro Aravena
The 17th Venice Architecture Biennale invited architects to ponder the question “How will we live together”, eliciting a variety of answers, readings and interpretations. The International Exhibition unfolding in Giardini, the Arsenale and Forte Maghera presents 112 participants in the competition, coming from 46 countries, whose contributions are organized into five scales: Among Diverse Beings, As New Households, As Emerging Communities, Across Borders, and As One Planet. Answering “How will we live together as a community? “ is Chilean office ELEMENTAL and Archdaily met in Venice with Alejandro Aravena to discuss the idea behind the project KOYAÜWE, which creates a space that recovers the tradition of parleys, as a means to address the historical Chilean-Mapuche conflict.
Globalization and its pension for both virtual and physical connectivity has led to the linking of the world's economies, territories, and cultures and nowhere is this more evident than in the field of architecture.
Launched by the Goethe Institut, Habiter Dakar (Living in Dakar) is a virtual exhibition tackling Housing in the Senegalese capital. The study was led by Nzinga Mboup and Caroline Geffriaud, both Architects based in Dakar. They noticed that the current housing offer in the city was particularly far off the needs of its inhabitants, whether on the cultural, societal or environmental level.
The architects analyzed the progression through which the Senegalese capital's Urban Landscape and Housing development had passed, starting from the traditional compound living type to today’s international housing models which seem to be disconnected from the daily reality of most of the city’s inhabitants. The study is concentrated on Housing which is an essential part of the formation and evolution of Dakar and suggests important theoretical and concrete reflections for the future development of the African metropolis.
ELEMENTAL presents a sneak peek of its contribution to "How will we live together?" at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2021. Recently, violence has increased in the historical Mapuche-Chilean conflict, that is why the architectural office proposed to build places that recover the old tradition of parleys, spaces to meet in order to settle differences and discuss terms for an armistice.
The Pritzker Prize, architecture’s highest honor, has just announced the appointment of Alejandro Aravena as Chair of the Pritzker Architecture Prize Jury as of March 2021, in time for the award’s 43rd year. Moreover, the announcement also designated Manuela Lucá-Dazio, the Executive Director of the Department of Visual Arts and Architecture of La Biennale di Venezia, as an advisor to the Prize and the next Executive Director.
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.
As Milan Design Week continues to set avant-garde design trends for the upcoming years, the 2019 Salone del Mobile’s lighting biennale, Euroluce, saw a nod to classic designs mixed with contemporary craftsmanship.
Two dominant trends at this year’s Euroluce are ‘rediscovering the past’ and a ‘reference to nature’. Vintage lighting pieces were rediscovered, not only to serve as valuable tokens of the past, but as foundation for new research. The reference to nature is evidently the most dominant design trend at this year’s lighting biennale, as designers found inspiration from natural, organic forms, and produced their pieces with eco-friendly material.
However, some of the most unique pieces at this year’s Euroluce were developed in collaboration with heavyweights in the world of design. Profound architects found their way into the 2019 Euroluce, bringing together their design skills with the engineering solutions of design companies.
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.
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.
A new children’s urban playground has captured the attention and energy of children of all ages in the center of Valparaíso’s Cultural Park (Chile). The metallic structure is 40 meters long and has a colorful undulating path where children can run, jump, hide and slide.
La Serpentina is one of the public space projects designed by ELEMENTAL (Alejandro Aravena). It was built for Somos Choapa in Chile and is currently in Valparaíso as part of the XX Biennial of Architecture and Urbanism of Chile.
La Serpentina follows a similar design to the equipment at the Bicentenary Children’s Park (2012) in Santiago. La Serpentina is one of two interventions entered by Somos Choapa in the Biennial. The second project is a prototype with a series of touch screens installed in the main area of the Cultural Park of Valparaíso, accounting for over 100 concrete initiatives of the project.
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, 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.