Alejandro Aravena Wins 2016 Pritzker Prize

An image of the Universidad Católica de Chile in a sunny day.

The mathematics school at at the Universidad Católica de Chile, one of Aravena’s buildings | NPR

Chile-based architect Alejandro Aravena has won this year’s prestigious Pritzker Prize for architecture, intended to honor a living architect who demonstrates talent, vision, and commitment, and who has produced significant contributions to architecture. As part of the award, Aravena will receive a $100,000 grant.

Aravena is the 41st recipient of the prize, the first from Chile, and the fourth from Latin America. Of the choice of winner, Tom Pritzker, Chairman and President of The Hyatt Foundation which sponsors the prize, said, “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 in 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,” Pritzker added in a statement.

Aravena’s buildings include the Universidad Católica de Chile in Santiago, including many of its additional components and schools. His buildings are energy-efficient and respond to the local climate innovatively. Other buildings are currently under construction in Shanghai and in Austin, Texas, where he is building dorms for St. Edward’s University.

“Looking back, we feel deeply thankful. No achievement is individual. Architecture is a collective discipline,” Aravena said of his win in an email. “So we think, with gratitude, of all the people who contributed to give form to a huge diversity of forces at play. Looking into the future, we anticipate freedom!”

In an essay for The Guardian, Aravena explained that his interests in architecture are strongly relative to the context and environment in which it is built. His buildings rely on local resources for construction, and his most ambitious project thus far, founding a firm called Elemental, is dedicated to finding ways to build socially-conscious housing for low-income communities.

“The battle for a better-built environment is a collective effort that requires everybody’s force and knowledge,” Aravena wrote.

Congratulations, Alejandro!

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