Alejandro Aravena has been announced as the 2017 winner of the Gothenburg Prize for Sustainable Development, just after taking out the Pritzker last year.

The Gothenburg is a prize that recognises either individuals or groups who demonstrate “outstanding performance and achievements towards a sustainable future.” Established in 2005, it is an international award that is remarkable for its non-exclusive nature. Not just open to architects, the prize has previously been awarded to environmentalists, scientists, engineers and political advocates. In fact, Aravena is the first architect to have won the prize.

The Chilean architect – a partner in architectural “Do-Tank”, Elemental – was lauded by the Gothenburg jury as someone who “applies a design philosophy [that includes] citizens as part of the solution and not part of the problem, creating bridges of trust between people, government and business.

“All three dimensions of sustainability are balanced in the participatory process; socially, environmentally and economically.”

In particular, the jury called attention to the social housing initiative that Aravena led as part of Elemental. The initiative was initially conceived after a magnitude 8.8 earthquake hit Chile, killing over 500 people and displacing many more. Elemental’s social housing initiative was a response to this mass displacement; the creation of Villa Verde filled an entire area with two-storey “half-houses”.

“Mr Aravena, together with his colleagues at Elemental, argues that with the right design, sustainability is nothing but the rigorous use of common sense. The results are often simple solutions to the complex challenges,” said the jury.