Chilean architect wins highest honour: A project showcase

by Tania Wannenburg

Alejandro Aravena from Chile has been selected to receive the 2016 Pritzker Architecture Prize for his contribution to the architecture profession.

The 2016 Pritzker Architecture Prize has been awarded to Alejandro Aravena, a 48-year-old architect based in Santiago, Chile.

The jury commended him for delivering excellent architectural works ranging from small- to large-scale projects, both private and public, in countries across the world. “He understands materials and construction, but also the importance of poetry and the power of architecture to communicate on many levels,” the jury cited.

They further applauded him for having a holistic understanding of the built environment and demonstrating the ability to practice artful architecture, while meeting current social and economic challenges.

Aravena has designed many energy-efficient buildings that respond to the local climate. His buildings feature innovative, efficient facades and layouts that make the most of natural light. Currently under construction in Shanghai, China, is an office building for the healthcare company Novartis, for which Aravena has designed modern office spaces apt to accommodate different modes of work.

The architect’s impressive background includes involvement in many industry-related movements, teaching as a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and three other institutions, authoring three publications that have been published in more than 50 countries, a stint as member of the Pritzker Architecture Prize Jury, and he is currently serving as director of the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016.

He is also a partner at the firm Elemental, which focuses on projects of public interest and social impact. The company came up with a social housing design called “half of a good house”, which allows residents to finish the house themselves to move up to a higher standard of living. This approach not only gets residents invested in the building, but also allows social housing to be built on more expensive land.

Tom Pritzker, chairman and president of the Hyatt Foundation, commented: “The jury has selected an architect who deepens our understanding of what is truly great design. Alejandro Aravena has pioneered a collaborative practice that produces powerful works of architecture and also addresses key challenges of the 21st century. His built work gives economic opportunity to the less privileged, mitigates the effects of natural disasters, reduces energy consumption and provides welcoming public space. Innovative and inspiring, he shows how architecture at its best can improve people’s lives.”

The award will be handed over at the formal award ceremony in New York on 4 April 2016.

Full thanks and acknowledgment are given to the Pritzker Architecture Prize and the Hyatt Foundation for the information given to write this article.

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