Partner Architect and Executive Director, Elemental, Chile and Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize (2016)
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Holcim Roundtable 2014
Alejandro Aravena (l), Executive Director, Elemental (Chile) and Werner Sobek, Director, Institute for Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design (ILEK), University of Stuttgart (Germany), at the inaugural Holcim Roundtable held at MIT Endicott House, Boston, MA, USA in 2014.
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Global Holcim Awards 2012 - Finalist Presentation
Global Holcim Awards Finalist certificate 2012 handover for "Sustainable post-tsunami reconstruction master plan", Constitucion, Chile. Alejandro Aravena: “Bringing together ideas, knowledge and coordination is the most critical factor to ensure such projects come to life – and this is precisely what the Holcim Awards competition supports.”
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Global Holcim Awards 2012 - Finalist Presentation
Global Holcim Awards Finalist certificate 2012 handover for Sustainable post-tsunami reconstruction master plan, Constitucion, Chile (l-r): Fernando Palma, Corporate Commercial Director, Cemento Polpaico; members of the team from ELEMENTAL: Diego Torres, Alejandro Aravena, Juan Cerda, Victor Oddo, Christian Martínez; and Juan Fasani, Head of Corporate Communications at Cemento Polpaico and Holcim Awards Coordinator for Chile.
Last updated: April 28, 2023
Alejandro Aravena is Partner Architect & Executive Director of Elemental, a socially motivated architectural practice based in Santiago, Chile.
He is a Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize (2016). Highlighting his dedication to improve urban environments and to address the global housing crisis, the Pritzker Prize jury praised the way in which the Chilean architect has "risen to the demands of practicing architecture as an artful endeavor, as well as meeting today's social and economic challenges."
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.
Sustainability is nothing than the rigorous use of common sense. Alejandro Aravena
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).
“Bringing the community into the design process” – Alejandro Aravena
Alejandro Aravena presented three of his projects from Chile that illustrate the power of design at a TED event in Rio de Janeiro. A community housing project in the center of Iquique, the Innovation Center UC Anacleto Angelini in Santiago, and the Holcim Awards Silver 2011 winning urban reconstruction project in Constitución show the importance of design. By bringing the community into the process to understand the problems – the design process ensures that the “right questions” are the focus.
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 is a member of the Council of the Cities Programme at the London School of Economics – LSE (2011-).
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.
Holcim Foundation engagement
Alejandro Aravena was a member of the Board of the Holcim Foundation (2013-23). 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 Academic Body at the Norman Foster Foundation Cities: Affordable Housing Workshop 2022 supported by the Holcim Foundation.
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).