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.
Elemental: The Latest Architecture and News
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.
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.
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.
OBR Paolo Brescia and Tommaso Principi and Michel Desvigne Paysagiste have been announced of the winners of first prize in the international competition to design the new Parco Centrale (Central Park) in Prato, Italy.
The 230-team competition asked architects to design a new 3-hectare urban park in Prato’s historical city center on the site of the former city hospital, within the perimeter of the city walls. The project is intended to meet the needs of a contemporary city while driving socio-economic development of the city center through “enhancements to its touristic vocation, sustainability and accessibility.”
The jury, chaired by architect Bernard Tschumi, unanimously selected the winning proposal for “its ability to offer to the city of Prato an original, innovative and practical solution.” Commented Tschumi on the design, “The project is remarkable in the way it understands and celebrates the history of Prato and of its medieval walls. At the same time, it looks to the future and to the development of the city and its diverse population.”
The jury also released the full rankings of the 10 finalist teams. Learn about the winning design and see the entries from all 10 of the finalists, after the break.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On the eve of the Venice Biennale, The New York Times’ Michael Kimmelman sits down with Alejandro Aravena in an intimate profile for T Magazine’s Beauty Issue. Visiting a number of projects by the architect and his office, Elemental, Kimmelman experiences socially minded architecture in an age of informal growth, income inequality, and mounting threats linked to climate change, all while learning about Aravena’s own path and growth as a practitioner. Although told by colleagues that he might be standoffish, Kimmelman finds Aravena to be “earnest, open, a little nerdy –– and deadly serious.”