Cities & Architecture

The Buildings of Alejandro Aravena, 2016’s Pritzker Laureate

Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena, winner of the Pritzker Prize in 2016, is a co-founder of the architecture school ‘Do Tank’ Elemental. Several of his buildings have received international acclaim for their iconic architectural design, including the Siamese Towers and the UC Innovation Centre in Santiago.

Arguably his most notable contribution has been in designing low-cost and post-disaster reconstruction housing. Under his leadership, Elemental practices what Aravena calls incremental or participatory design. They leave housing structures half-done on purpose, with only foundations and frames built. This is to allow families and communities to finish their homes as they see fit, giving them a more personal feel. Such projects have been successful in various parts of Latin America, such as the low-cost Quinta Monroy housing complex in Iquique and the Villa Verde complex in post-earthquake Constitución.

Aravena’s social and community-led outlook on architectural design as a collective practice set him apart in the eyes of the prize’s awardees. Architects can play a big role in addressing the imminent housing crisis, he said in a recent interview. The form of design him and Elemental have adopted is a step in that direction.

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