Alejandro Aravena wins 2016 Pritzker Architecture Prize

by Kim Megson | 13 Jan 2016

Alejandro Aravena of Chile has been selected as the 2016 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate.

The Pritzker Prize – widely regarded as architecture's highest accolade – honours a living architect or architects “whose built work demonstrates a combination of talent, vision, and commitment, and who has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment.”

Since 2001, Aravena has been executive director of the Santiago-based studio Elemental. The firm, which describes itself as “a do tank, not a think tank”, focuses on projects of public interest and social impact, including public space, infrastructure and social housing.

Aravena’s leisure projects with Elemental include the Metropolitan Promenade and Bicentennial Children’s Park in Santiago and a writer’s cabin for the Jan Michalski Foundation in Montricher, Switzerland. The studio is also designing a cultural centre in the city of Constitución, which it has helped to reconstruct following the 2010 earthquake and tsunami that hit Chile.

From May to November this year, Aravena will serve as artistic director for the Venice Architecture Biennale, which will focus on improving quality of life within the built environment.

In its citation, the Pritzker jury said: “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 understands materials and construction, but also the importance of poetry and the power of architecture to communicate on many levels.”

The judges praised Aravena’s contributions to “architecture and humanity past and present”, stating: “He has a deep understanding of both architecture and civil society, as is reflected in his writing, his activism and his designs. The role of the architect is now being challenged to serve greater social and humanitarian needs, and Alejandro Aravena has clearly, generously and fully responded to this challenge.”

Tom Pritzker, president of The Hyatt Foundation, which sponsors the prize, added: “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.”

Responding to his prize win, Aravena said: “Looking backwards, we feel deeply thankful. No achievement is individual. Architecture is a collective discipline. 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.

"The prestige, the reach, the gravitas of the prize is such that we hope to use its momentum to explore new territories, face new challenges, and walk into new fields of action. After such a peak, the path is unwritten. So our plan is not to have a plan, face the uncertain, be open to the unexpected. Finally, looking at the present, we are just overwhelmed, ecstatic, happy. It's time to celebrate and share our joy with as many people as possible.”

Aravena becomes the 41st winner of the prize, the first Pritzker Laureate from Chile, and the fourth from Latin America, after Luis Barragán (1980), Oscar Niemeyer (1988), and Paulo Mendes da Rocha (2006).

He will receive US$100,000 (€91,700, £68,000) in prize money and the famous Pritzker bronze medal.

Nominations for candidates were accepted internationally from past laureates, architects, academics, critics and politicians. The list was then judged by the Pritzker jury.

The prize was founded in 1979 by the Pritzker family. Previous winners include Shigeru Ban, Toyo Ito, Richard Rodgers, Jean Nouvel, Zaha Hadid, Renzo Piano, Norman Foster and James Stirling.

The formal award ceremony will take place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 4 April.

Pritzker Prize  architecture  design 
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2016 Pritzker Prize winner to be revealed on 13 January

Alejandro Aravena of Chile has been selected as the 2016 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate. The Pritzker Prize – widely regarded as architecture's highest accolade – honours a living architect or architects “whose built work demonstrates a combination of talent, vision, and commitment, and who has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment.” Since 2001, Aravena has been executive director of the Santiago-based studio Elemental. The firm,
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Aravena is the 41st winner of the prize, the first Pritzker Laureate from Chile and the fourth from Latin America / Cristobal Palma
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