Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena wins Pritzker Prize

Chile’s Alejandro Aravena was awarded the 2016 Pritzker Architecture Prize in a ceremony at U.N. headquarters that highlighted the social commitment of his artistic creations.

Aravena, 48, director of the architecture section of the Venice Biennale and visiting professor at Harvard, received the medal of honor presented him by the president of the Hyatt Foundation, Thomas J. Pritzker.

The winner of the prize, considered the Nobel Prize for architecture, was announced on Jan. 13, and noted Aravena’s skill at combining art with social responsibility in his creations, from important buildings to socially responsible housing.

And Monday night, in a message basically dedicated to expressing his thanks for the prize and sharing the news with friends and associates, Aravena recalled that architecture does not consist so much of steel, bricks and wood, as of “life itself.”

The architect leads the Santiago-based collective ELEMENTAL, which focuses on projects of public interest and social impact.

That commitment is well reflected in his reconstruction work for the city of Constitucion, one of those most devastated by the earthquake and tsunami that shook Chile on Feb. 27, 2010, leaving some 500 dead and around 800,000 affected.

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).

The first woman to win the Pritzker, 2004 laureate Zaha Hadid, had intended to be on hand for Monday’s ceremony at U.N. headquarters, but died last week at the age of 65.

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