Tom Pritzker, Chairman and President of The Hyatt Foundation announced the selection of Alejandro Aravena from Chile as the 2016 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate.

Considered the architecture industry’s highest honour, the Pritzker Prize will be awarded to the 48-year-old Aravena at a formal ceremony at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on April 4, 2016.

Based in Santiago, Chile, Aravena is the 41st laureate of the Pritzker Prize; the first from Chile and only the fourth from Latin America, after Luis Barragán (1980), Oscar Niemeyer (1988), and Paulo Mendes da Rocha (2006).

According to Pritzker, 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.

The Innovation Center UC - Anacleto Angelini, Macul, Chile by Alejandro Aravena | ELEMENTAL. Photography by Nico Saieh

Aravena’s work can be seen in several completed remarkable buildings at the esteemed Universidad Católica de Chile in Santiago, including the UC Innovation Center – Anacleto Angelini (2014) (pictured above), the Siamese Towers (2005), Medical School (2004), School of Architecture (2004), and the Mathematics School (1999). An office building currently under construction in Shanghai, China for healthcare company Novartis, features office spaces designed to accommodate different modes of work — individual, collective, formal and informal. In the United States, Aravena has built St Edward’s University Dorms (2008) in Austin, Texas (pictured below).

St-edwards.jpgSt Edward’s University Dorms Austin, Texas by Alejandro Aravena. Photography by Cristobal Palma

Since 2001, Aravena has been executive director of the Santiago-based ELEMENTAL, whose partners are Gonzalo Arteaga, Juan Cerda, Victor Oddó, and Diego Torres. Focussed on projects of public interest and social impact, including housing, public space, infrastructure, and transportation, ELEMENTAL has designed more than 2,500 units of low-cost social housing. Also known for designing social housing where the design leaves space for the residents to complete their houses themselves, ELEMENTAL, through this innovative ‘incremental housing’ approach, allows for social housing to be built on more expensive land closer to economic opportunity and gives residents a sense of accomplishment and personal investment.

In response to being named the 2016 Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, Aravena emailed:

“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.”

The 2016 Pritzker Architecture Prize Jury Citation states in part, “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 has undertaken projects of different scales from single-family houses to large institutional buildings…. He understands materials and construction, but also the importance of poetry and the power of architecture to communicate on many levels.”

Children's Bicentennial Park, Santiago Metropolitan Region, Chile by ELEMENTAL

Aravena and ELEMENTAL have designed the Metropolitan Promenade (1997 - ongoing) and Bicentennial Children’s Park (2012) (pictured above), both in Santiago. After the 2010 earthquake and tsunami that hit Chile, ELEMENTAL was called to work on the reconstruction of the city of Constitución; their work there includes emergency relief work, a master plan, Villa Verde (incremental housing, 2013), and the Constitución Cultural Center (2014). Other works include a Montessori School (2001) in Santiago, Chile; ‘Chairless’ furniture (2010) for Vitra in Weil am Rhein, Germany; Monterrey Housing (incremental housing, 2010) in Monterrey, Mexico; Las Cruces Pilgrim Lookout Point (2010) in Jalisco, Mexico; Calama PLUS master plan (2012 - ongoing) in Calama, Chile; Writer’s Cabin for the Jan Michalski Foundation (2015) in Montricher, Switzerland; and Ayelén School (2015) in Rancagua, Chile.

Alejandro Aravena is the Director of the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016, titled ‘Reporting from the Front’ set to open in May 2016.