Modern Design with – Aljandro Aravena - Pritzker Prize Laureate

"Alejandro Aravena understands materials and construction, but also the importance of poetry and the power of architecture to communicate on many levels," states the jury citation for the 48 year old Chilean architect’s 2016 Pritzker win.

The architect has focused on his homeland’s need for low cost urban housing, often confronting the problems of reconstruction after natural disasters. His Santiago based "do tank" (as opposed to think), Elemental, which he has led since 2001, uses what he calls participatory design. They have developed a design-build process for social housing called “half a good house.” The thinking is that the basic framing, infrastructure, kitchen, and plumbing are the areas of greatest expense and the most difficult for residents to do themselves.

Aravena’s concept was to built these sections into a rectangular volume, leaving a matching void next to it to be filled in later. The community members add bedrooms, living space, a room to rent out - whatever they need. They are invested, their property values rise, and they can progress as their means allow. A smaller initial investment also allows for building on more expensive land closer to jobs and schools, again increasing opportunity for the residents.

The architect says, “Social housing is a difficult question and it deserves professional quality, not professional charity. We need the best people in the entire chain of production, from the politicians to the social worker to the designer.”

The firm has also designed public buildings, including several for Mr. Aravena’s alma mater, the Universidad Católica de Chile: a mathematics school (1998), medical school (2001), a renovation of the architecture school (2004), Siamese Towers (2005) and the U.C. Innovation Center — Anacleto Angelini (2014).

Photos: #1 courtesy Elemental, #2 courtesy Elemental, #3 Siamese Towers, courtesy David Basulto, #4 Innovation Center, courtesy Nina Vidic