CHICAGO – Chile’s Alejandro Aravena was awarded the 2016 Pritzker Architecture Prize on Wednesday for a body of work in the public and private spheres that shows his ability to link social responsibility, economic demands and the design of human habitat.
The jury praised the 48-year-old Aravena for works of architectural excellence in both Chile and abroad, noting that his projects have encompassed a variety of 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,” the jury citation said.
Tom Pritzker, the president of The Hyatt Foundation that sponsors the prize, said in Chicago that Aravena “practices architecture as an artful endeavor in private commissions and in designs for the public realm and epitomizes the revival of a more socially engaged architect.”
The fourth Latin American to be honored with the Pritzker, considered the Nobel Prize for architecture, Aravena is best known for buildings he designed for Santiago’s Universidad Catolica de Chile, including the UC Innovation Center – Anacleto Angelini (2014), the Siamese Towers (2005), the Medical School (2004), the School of Architecture (2004) and the Mathematics School (1999).
“His built work gives economic opportunity to the less privileged, mitigates the effects of natural disasters, reduces energy consumption and provides welcoming public space. Innovative and inspiring, he shows how architecture at its best can improve people’s lives,” Pritzker said.
Aravena said after learning of the honor that “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.”
“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,” the architect said on behalf of Santiago-based ELEMENTAL, a team he heads that focuses on projects of public interest and social impact.