by Vladimir Belogolovsky Apr 17, 2020
Alejandro Aravena, the winner of 2016 Pritzker Architecture Prize, was born on June 22, 1967, in Santiago, Chile. He established his practice Alejandro Aravena Architects in 1994, and later ELEMENTAL, a ‘Do Tank’ in 1994. Having graduated as an architect from the Universidad Católica de Chile in 1992, he served as a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia, Architectural Association in London and London School of Economics. Aravena was also appointed as the Director of the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2016, and was one of the jury members for the Pritzker Architecture Prize from 2009 to 2015.
Through his studio ELEMENTAL, which is known for affordable housing solutions and socially aware design, Aravena has completed projects in places such as Chile, United States, Mexico, China and Switzerland, and was also involved in the reconstruction of Constitućion in Chile after an earthquake ravaged the entire city. Other people who form the design firm ELEMENTAL are Gonzalo Arteaga, Juan Cerda, Victor Oddó and Diego Torres.
“Alejandro Aravena is leading a new generation of architects that has a holistic understanding of the built environment and has clearly demonstrated the ability to connect social responsibility, economic demands, design of human habitat and the city,” the jury of the Pritzker Prize 2016 had mentioned while honouring him with the award.
As a writer, Aravena's work has been published worldwide, and some of the books authored by him are - Los Hechos de la Arquitectura (Architectural Facts, 1999), El Lugar de la Arquitectura (The Place in/of Architecture, 2002) and Material de Arquitectura (Architecture Matters, 2003)..
Today, on the occasion of his 53rd birthday, STIR lists down some of the interesting facts about Alejandro Aravena:
1. Aravena’s parents were both middle-class teachers and he gained private education in Santiago, Chile.
2. While studying at the Architecture school at Universidad Católica de Chile, international magazines were banned due to the military dictatorship of ruler Augusto Pinochet. Chilean architecture students had limited access to what was going on in the rest of the world. Aravena believes this ‘saved them from Post-modernism’.
4. While in Italy, he visited Romanesque buildings and discovered the works of Andrea Palladio, Leon Battista Alberti and Fillipo Brunolleschi. These made him realise the impact and aspirations architecture can have.
5. Aravena opened his own bar and stopped practicing architecture for a few years. This was because, after returning from Venice he was disappointed with the opportunities being offered.
6. Aravena believes architect Smiljan Radic is ‘the best in the country (Chile)’.
7. Having successfully designed and executed the housing for the post-earthquake city of Constitućion in Chile, Aravena went on to design four Incremental Housing projects, which he has made available for free download on the ELEMENTAL website for use and application anywhere in the world.
8. Aravena’s wife, Gica, is also an architect from Brazil. They live in Chile with their children while Aravena tries to limit his time out of the country.
9. In an interview advising students and future architects, Aravena suggested students to keep circling around the idea of being free and being a nerd to break clichés in the built environment.
10. Aravena cuts his own hair.
Inputs extracted from NY Times, Louisana Channel, www.bernaskoni.com and other sources.