Chilean born Alejandro Aravena, known for his formal high design with social responsibility, has won the 2016 Pritzker Prize. Regarded as the Nobel prize of architecture, the award marks a great milestone in Aravena’s career.
Each year the Pritzker goes to a living architect whose work has contributed to humanity and the built environment. Previous winners include architecture luminaries such as Frei Otto, Shigeru Ban, Philip Johnson, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid and Norman Foster. Aravena is the Executive Director of Elemental and is distinguished for his projects that tackle poverty with a participatory approach that engages local communities.
As stated by architecture critic Paul Goldberger, “Aravena’s work is modest, practical, and exceptionally elegant. There are plenty of other architects around who do modest and practical work, and there are many architects who can make elegant and beautiful buildings, but it is surprising how few can do these two things at the same time, or who want to. Shigeru Ban, who won the Pritzker in 2014, is one, but a lot of Ban’s work is based on clever use of materials such as cardboard and shipping containers, and when he uses more conventional materials, the results are not always as noteworthy. Aravena is doing much more than playing with inexpensive materials. He is more interested in what could be called participatory architecture than any architect I know, and he has a more inventive notion of how to do it.”
One of his most recognized projects is a housing complex known as the “Half a House” or the Quinta Monroy Housing project in Chile that includes 484 structures that resemble a house however, the right side has been left open for each family to fill in when the space is needed. Described by Aravena as incremental design, his objective was to inspire people’s own creative capacity. Aravena studied architecture in Chile, and later taught at Harvard before becoming the director of Elemental. 2016 is a big year for Aravena, other than winning the prestigious Pritzker prize, he is also the curator of the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale in May.