ALEJANDRO ARAVENA: Architects 'must find balance between people's needs and desires'

Life must include the more intangible dimensions of the human condition, from everyday life experiences to extraordinary events; from a personal perspective to collective living
– Alejandro Aravena

This year’s Pritzker Prize winner, Alejandro Aravena, has told CLAD that architects and developers must do more to improve people’s quality of life when developing built environments.

In an interview featured in the new issue of CLADmag, the Chilean architect said that even when people’s basic needs are provided for – such as shelter and warmth – a project has not succeeded unless it creates an environment where people can enjoy their life.

“Life must include the more intangible dimensions of the human condition, from everyday life experiences to extraordinary events; from a personal perspective to collective living,” he said. “The spectrum ranges from needs that must be satisfied to desires that have to be fulfilled. So we have to find a balance between needs and desires. And it must be both, not one or the other.

“Architecture is about giving form to the places where people live. It’s no more complicated than that, but it’s no easier than that either, because of the range of places that we have to deal with: houses, schools, offices, institutions, the street, the sidewalk, the park; everything.”

Aravena warned that the choices faced by architects will either “improve or ruin the lives of people for generations,” adding that careful planning and use of resources can achieve a result that bolsters both the practicality of a project and the quality of life it provides.

As an example of his philosophy, which he described as “architectural synthesis”, Aravena described his work in Constitución, Chile, where his studio Elemental helped rebuild the city following an earthquake and tsunami in 2010.

Practical requirements – such as shelter and flood protection – were considered alongside the need to increase available public space so people could socialise, exercise and relax outdoors. Both aspects were covered in the final design, which was completed to schedule and under the proposed budget.

Earlier this year Aravena opened the Venice Architecture Biennale, which he has curated, by stating that “banality and mediocrity in architecture are as damaging as not responding to basic needs.”

He urged architects to go back to their offices “with less excuses not to do better” in this regard, and called on “ministers and mayors to think about improving the quality of lives, not just profit.”

CLAD’s full interview with Alejandro Aravena, and a summary of the Constitución project, can be read on digital turning pages here.

Alejandro Aravena  architecture  built environment  public space  design  Venice Biennale  Pritzker Prize 
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FEATURE: Interview – Alejandro Aravena

This year’s Pritzker Prize winner, Alejandro Aravena, has told CLAD that architects and developers must do more to improve people’s quality of life when developing built environments. In an interview featured in the new issue of CLADmag, the Chilean architect said that even when people’s basic needs are provided for – such as shelter and warmth – a project has not succeeded unless it creates an environment where people can
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