10 remarkable works of Alejandro Aravena

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Alejandro Aravena is a renowned Chilean architect and urban designer, who is widely recognized for his innovative and socially conscious approach to architecture. Born on June 22, 1967, in Santiago, Chile, Aravena studied architecture at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, where he later became a professor.

Aravena’s architectural practice, ELEMENTAL, which he co-founded in 2001, has gained international acclaim for its focus on designing affordable housing solutions that prioritize community engagement and sustainable design. His work often integrates elements of urban planning, social housing, and public space design to create holistic solutions that address complex social issues such as poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation.

In addition to his architectural practice, Aravena has been a visiting professor at several universities, including Harvard University and the London School of Economics. He has received numerous awards for his contributions to the field of architecture, including the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2016, which is often referred to as the Nobel Prize for architecture. Aravena is also a member of the Pritzker Architecture Prize jury, and he continues to inspire and influence architects around the world with his socially responsible approach to design.

“So be it the force of self construction, the force of common sense, or the force of nature, all these forces need to be translated into form, and what that form is modelling and shaping is not cement, bricks, or wood. It is life itself. Design’s power of synthesis is just an attempt to put at the innermost core of architecture the force of life.”

Alejandro Aravena

Quinta Monroy Housing

© Photo by Cristobal Palma / Estudio Palma

Year: 2003
Location: Chile
Type: Social Housing

The Quinta Monroy Housing project is a social housing development based on Elemental’s “incremental housing” approach in Iquique, Chile designed by Alejandro Aravena and his architecture firm, Elemental. Completed in 2005, the project consists of 93 homes built for families who had been living in precarious conditions in an informal settlement on the site.

Aravena’s design sought to create a sense of community and belonging among the residents by providing individual homes with outdoor spaces and shared amenities such as a community center and green spaces. The project was built on a limited budget, using a combination of prefabricated and local construction materials.

The project has been praised for its ability to improve the living conditions and quality of life of the residents. It has become a model for affordable housing developments around the world.

Elemental Monterrey Housing

© Photo by Ramiro Ramirez

Year: 2010
Location: Monterrey, Mexico
Type: Social Housing

The elemental Monterrey Housing project consists of 70 housing units for low-income families. The design approach is based on the “half-house” concept, which provides families with a basic core unit that can be expanded over time as their needs and finances grow. Each unit consists of a compact, two-story structure with a kitchen, living room, bathroom on the ground floor, and a bedroom on the upper floor.

Cost-effective materials and construction methods were another important consideration in the design of Elemental Monterrey Housing. The project employs a modular construction system that allows for efficient assembly and disassembly of the units, reducing construction time and costs. It showcases Aravena’s commitment to creating sustainable and socially responsible architecture that addresses pressing societal issues.

Siamese Towers

© Photo by Cristobal Palma

Year: 2003
Location: Santiago, Chile
Type: University building

The Siamese Towers are a pair of skyscrapers located in Santiago. The towers are 21 stories high and are connected by a central core that houses elevators and stairs. The design of the towers includes a series of outdoor terraces that provide additional living space and access to fresh air and sunlight.

To reduce energy consumption, the Siamese Towers incorporate several sustainable features, including a geothermal heating and cooling system and a rainwater collection system for irrigation. The towers also have a unique facade made up of a grid of steel beams and glass panels, which serves as a sunshade to regulate the amount of sunlight entering the building.

The Siamese Towers have received numerous awards and recognition for their innovative design and sustainable features. They represent Aravena’s commitment to creating architecture that is both functional and socially responsible and his belief that design can play a crucial role in addressing global challenges.

Villa Verde Housing

Alejandro Aravena
© Photo by Suyin Chia

Year: 2010
Location: Constitucion, Chile
Type: Social housing

Completed in 2013, the project consists of 484 housing units for families who lost their homes in the 2010 earthquake and tsunami. The design of Villa Verde Housing is based on Elemental’s “incremental housing” approach, which provides families with a basic core unit that can be expanded over time as their needs and finances grow. The units are arranged in clusters around a central courtyard, creating a sense of community and promoting social interaction among residents.

The design also incorporates several sustainable features, including a solar water heating system and a rainwater collection system for irrigation. The use of locally sourced materials and labor was another important consideration in the design, as it helped to support the local economy and reduce the project’s carbon footprint. The project is one of the most known works of Aravena when it comes to affordable social housing.

Innovation Center UC – Anacleto Angelini

Alejandro Aravena
© Photo by Nico Saieh

Year: 2014
Location: Santiago, Chile
Type: University

The Innovation Center UC – Anacleto Angelini is a building complex located on the campus of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, in Santiago. The project is a multi-functional building that houses a range of facilities for the university, including classrooms, laboratories, offices, and public spaces. The design of the building incorporates several sustainable features.

One of the most innovative features of the building is its use of a prefabricated concrete panel system, which allowed for rapid construction and reduced waste. The panels have a series of slots and holes that allowed for flexibility in the placement of windows and doors, while also providing thermal insulation.

UC Faculty of Mathematics, Santiago

Alejandro Aravena
© Photo by Tadeuz Jalocha

Year: 1998-1999
Location: Santiago, Chile
Type: University

The School of Mathematics UC is a building located on the campus of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile in Santiago. The building was completed in 2018 and serves as the headquarters of the university’s mathematics department.

The School of Mathematics UC features several innovative design elements, including a wooden lattice facade that provides shade and ventilation, reducing the need for air conditioning. The use of locally sourced materials, including the timber used for the facade, was an important consideration in the design, as it helped to support the local economy and reduce the building’s carbon footprint.

Constitución Cultural Center

Alejandro Aravena
© Photo by Felipe Diaz Contardo

Year: 2015
Location: Constitución, Chile
Type: Cultural Center

The Constitución Cultural Center is a building located in Constitución, Chile. The building serves as a cultural hub for the local community and a symbol of the city’s resilience in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake and tsunami.

The use of locally sourced materials, including the timber used for the facade, was an important consideration in the design, as it helped to support the local economy and reduce the building’s carbon footprint.

The Constitución Cultural Center is a powerful example of Aravena’s commitment to using design as a tool for social change and his belief that architecture can play a vital role in addressing global challenges.

St. Edward’s University Dormitories

Alejandro Aravena
© Photo by Cristobal Palma

Year: 2008
Location: Austin, Texas
Type: Student Housing – Dorm

St. Edward’s University is a private Catholic university located in Austin, Texas. The Residence and Dining Hall feature four floors of student housing, with a total of 300 beds. The building’s layout is based on the idea of a “micro-neighborhood,” with each floor divided into smaller living areas. Each living area includes a communal kitchen, a living room, and a study area.

One of the most unique aspects of the Residence and Dining Hall is its use of rammed earth walls. Aravena used this material to create the building’s exterior walls, which provide natural insulation and give the building a distinctive look.

Bicentennial Children’s Park

Alejandro Aravena
© Photo by Cristobal Palma

Year: 2012
Location: Santiago, Chile
Type: Park

The Bicentennial Children’s Park is a public park located in Santiago, Chile. The park was completed in 2012 and is intended to provide a safe and engaging space for children to play and explore.

The design of the Bicentennial Children’s Park is based on Elemental’s philosophy of using simple and efficient design strategies to create functional spaces. The park consists of a series of interconnected pavilions and playgrounds that are arranged around a central plaza. The pavilions are designed to be flexible and adaptable, allowing for different activities and uses depending on the needs of the community. The design also prioritizes accessibility and safety, with features such as wheelchair ramps, low walls, and rounded edges.

15th Venice Architecture Biennale

Alejandro Aravena
Alejandro Aravena in his exhibit at the Arsenale was created using waste material generated from the last Venice Biennale. © Photo by James Mollison / Surface

The project of Alejandro Aravena for the Venice Biennale in 2016 was titled “Reporting from the Front”. Aravena curated the main exhibition at the Biennale and presented a range of projects from around the world that addressed challenges such as housing, poverty, and access to resources. The exhibition showcased how architects, planners, and designers can make a positive impact on society by creating buildings and urban spaces that are functional.

“The opening halls of Biennale Architettura 2016 were built with 100 tons of waste material generated by the previous Biennale,” said Alejandro Aravena.

As the main event’s curator, Alejandro Aravena designed the opening rooms with the previous year’s scrap metals and plasterboards. This installation was an attractive entrance for the exhibition, in line with the theme of the event which was intended to encourage architects to address some of the most important global issues.

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