“Socially engaged” Aravena says Pritzker award gives design freedom

View of Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena's Innovation Centre of the Catholic University of Chile building in Santiago, Chile, on January 13, 2016. Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena won the prestigious 2016 Pritzker Prize Wednesday, earning praise for "powerful" designs that address key social and economic challenges of the 21st century. AFP PHOTO/CLAUDIO REYES / AFP / Claudio Reyes        (Photo credit should read CLAUDIO REYES/AFP/Getty Images)

Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena won the 2016 Pritzker Architecture Prize for work that “epitomises the revival of a more socially engaged architect.”

Among his work are study facilities which form part of the Catholic University of Chile (pictured).

In its citation, the jury noted that “few have risen to the demands of practicing architecture as an artful endeavor, as well as meeting today’s social and economic challenges. Aravena … has achieved both, and in doing so has meaningfully expanded the role of the architect.”

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Aravena said he felt “huge gratitude” upon receiving the award, which he said was tantamount to a Nobel Prize in his field. He also noted the collaborative nature of architecture.

“Architecture is a collective discipline,” he said. “It is done, to begin with, with the hands of others, the workers that build the designs, as opposed to a sculptor that makes it with his own hands.”

Speaking about how he was told he’d won, he said: “To tell the truth, I didn’t see it coming at all. I thought it was a phone call for the Venice Biennale [of which he is curator]. When she asked me if I was willing to accept, it took me a couple of minutes to really digest what she was saying. I was so overwhelmed emotionally that I couldn’t speak.

“The feeling is that of freedom. We feel we don’t have to prove anything to anyone anymore. Now we can take risks. And if we fail, so what?”

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