Alejandro Aravena is Partner Architect & Executive Director of Elemental, a socially motivated architectural practice based in Santiago, Chile.
He is also a member of the Board of the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction (2013-) and is a Pritzker Architecture Prize laureate (2016).
He was appointed by the Board of La Biennale di Venezia as Director of the Architecture Section, with the responsibility for curating the 15th International Architecture Exhibition (2016). Biennale President Paolo Baratta praised Alejandro Aravena for having managed to “narrow the gap between society and architecture.” The 15th International Architecture Exhibition attracted almost 260,000 visitors (a 15% increase), with 40% of all visitors younger than 35 years of age.
Alejandro Aravena considers the primary purpose of architecture to be to improve people’s way of life by assessing both social needs and human desires, as well as political, economic and environmental issues.
His work with Elemental includes the Mathematics Faculty, Medical Faculty, and Architecture School for the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (UC) in Santiago; Huelquen Montessori School, Chile; new facilities for St Edward’s University in Austin, TX, USA; and social housing and urban projects for Elemental. The firm won first prize in the Tehran Stock Exchange Competition, Iran (2012) and the Avonni Prize in “Innovative Trajectory” and “Social Innovation” (2009).
He established his private practice after graduating with a degree in architecture from UC in 1992. He also studied theory and history at the Università IUAV di Venezia, Italy (1992-93) and at the Architectural Association (AA) in London (1999).
He received the Silver Lion at the XI Venice Biennale (2008), 1st prize at the XII (2002) and the XV (2006) Santiago Biennale, and the Erich Schelling Architecture Medal 2006 (Germany). He was one of ten non-British architects recognized as International Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects for his exemplary contribution to architecture (2009). He was finalist in the Mies van der Rohe Award (2000), the Iakhov Chernikhov Prize (2008), and the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture (2008). He was a member of the jury of the Pritzker Prize for Architecture (2009-15).
Alejandro Aravena won the Holcim Awards Silver 2011 for Sustainable post-tsunami reconstruction master plan, developed after the 2010 earthquake and tsunami that struck Constitución, Chile. The project responds with “geographical answers to the geographical threats” of the earthquake and tsunami risk. He also won 1st Prize of the Zumtobel Global Award (Austria, 2014), the World Green Building Council Chairman’s Award (USA, 2014), the 1st Prize of the INDEX Award (Denmark, 2011) for his social housing projects.
Elemental won the architecture category in the London Design Museum Awards (2015) for the UC Innovation Center – Anacleto Angelini in Santiago. The jury praised the project as “an excellent example of how the design of an office building can engage with its context. Its large openings carved away from its façades not only act as air corridors, light channels and pockets of collective spaces, but they also provide a different perception of such a building in the city: one that is permeable, visually, socially and climatically with its environment.”
Alejandro Aravena won the Gothenburg Prize for Sustainable Development (2017), an international award that recognizes “outstanding performance and achievements towards a sustainable future”. Previous winners include environmentalists, scientists, engineers and political advocates – Alejandro Aravena is the first architect to receive the prize. The jury citation praised his application of “a design philosophy including citizens as part of the solution and not part of the problem, creating bridges of trust between people, government and business.”
Alejandro Aravena lectured at UC from 1994 and was ELEMENTAL Copec Chair of Urban Innovation (2006-09). He was Visiting Professor at the Graduate School of Design (GSD), Harvard University (2000-05), and the University of Wisconsin (2010).
He has written Los Hechos de la Arquitectura (ARQ Ediciones, 2007), El Lugar de la Arquitectura (ARQ Ediciones, 2002) and Material de Arquitectura (ARQ Ediciones 2003). His work has been exhibited at the X-hibition, retrospective at Harvard GSD (2004), X in Centro de Extensión UC, São Paulo Biennale (2007), Milan Triennale (2008) and the Venice Biennale. He was listed in the top 50 influential Chileans by Que Pasa magazine and one of “20 essential young architects” by ICON magazine in 2008.
Alejandro Aravena was appointed to the Board of the Holcim Foundation (2013). He was a keynote speaker on “Common sense principles of sustainable construction” at the 4th International Holcim Forum held at IIT Bombay in Mumbai (2013), and a guest speaker at the 10th Anniversary of the Foundation event in Basel, Switzerland (2013). He was also a participant of the 1st Holcim Roundtable held at MIT Endicott House, Cambridge, MA, USA (2014), the 2nd Holcim Roundtable held in Einsiedeln, Switzerland (2015), and the 3rd Holcim Roundtable held at the Institute for Lightweight Structures & Conceptual Design (ILEK) at the University of Stuttgart, Germany in March 2018.
He was a member of the Global Holcim Awards jury (2015), head of the Global Holcim Awards (2018), and a keynote panel moderator at the 6th International Holcim Forum on “Re-materializing Construction” held in Cairo, Egypt (2019).