Alejandro Aravena of Chile has been named the winner of the 2016 Pritzker Architecture Prize, considered internationally to be architecture’s highest honor.
The Pritzker Prize Jury Citation states, “Alejandro Aravena has delivered works of architectural excellence in the fields of private, public and educational commissions both in his home country and abroad…He has undertaken projects of different scales from single-family houses to large institutional buildings…He understands materials and construction, but also the importance of poetry and the power of architecture to communicate on many levels.”
Aravena was the mind behind a number of forward-thinking buildings at the esteemed Universidad Católica de Chile in Santiago, like the Siamese Towers (2005), Medical School (2004), School of Architecture (2004), and the Mathematics School (1999). “These energy-efficient buildings respond to the local climate with innovative, efficient facades and floor plans and offer the users natural light and convivial meeting places,” the announcement continues. (see Photo Gallery)
Aravena is currently constructing in Shanghai, China, an office building for healthcare company Novartis. Its office spaces will be “designed to accommodate different modes of work — individual, collective, formal and informal.”
But Aravena might be best known his work with Santiago-based “do tank” (vs. “think tank”) ELEMENTAL, which focuses on projects of public interest and social impact, including housing, public space, infrastructure, and transportation. ELEMENTAL has designed more than 2,500 units of low-cost social housing.
“A hallmark of the firm is a participatory design process in which the architects work closely with the public and end users. ELEMENTAL is also known for designing social housing that they call ‘half of a good house,’ in which the design leaves space for the residents to complete their houses themselves and thus raise themselves up to a middle-class standard of living. This innovative approach, called ‘incremental housing,’ allows for social housing to be built on more expensive land closer to economic opportunity and gives residents a sense of accomplishment and personal investment.”
The formal award ceremony will be at United Nations Headquarters in New York on April 4, 2016. For more on Aravena’s philosophy, listen to his recent TED Talk here.
Top photo courtesy of The Hyatt Foundation.