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Alejandro Aravena wins 2017 Gothenburg Award for Sustainable Development

Chile Architecture News - May 01, 2017 - 11:26   18173 views

Alejandro Aravena wins 2017 Gothenburg Award for Sustainable Development

Pritzker Prize-winning architect Alejandro Aravena has won The Gothenburg Award for Sustainable Development, the award recognizes and supports individual works or organisations towards sustainable development since 2000. Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena, 49, has been praised for designing projects in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas. Aravena's projects produce balanced solutions in "all three dimensions of sustainability; socially, environmentally and economically" for the process and product. 

"Aravena is an innovative Chilean architect who, along with his colleagues in the ‘Do Tank’ firm Elemental, applies a design philosophy based on making inhabitants part of the solution instead of regarding them as a problem – building bridges of trust between people, companies and governments," stated the jury.

Aravena will be awarded with 1 million Swedish krona (SEK), which equals over $100,000. The Gothenburg Award for Sustainable Development is given each year to people or organisations for outstanding performance and achievements towards a sustainable future.

Alejandro Aravena wins 2017 Gothenburg Award for Sustainable Development

UC Innovation Center – Anacleto Angelini, 2014, San Joaquín Campus, Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile. image © Nina Vidic

In 2016, Aravena won the Pritzker Prize, one of the world’s most prestigious architectural awards. In the same year, he was the curator of the Venice Architecture Biennale

Alejandro Aravena will receive the Award on 22 November at Draken, Folkets Hus in Gothenburg. His colleagues from Elemental will also attend the award ceremony. Seminars and lectures will be organised during the award winner’s visit, mentioned in a press release.

''Elemental is an operational think tank that works to develop strategies and produce good-value housing for economically disadvantaged groups. They operate similarly to a traditional think tank, but they also implement ideas and visions and work to combat segregation, for instance through socially and environmentally sustainable production of economical new housing," added the jury.

Alejandro Aravena wins 2017 Gothenburg Award for Sustainable Development

Monterrey Housing, 2010, Monterrey, Mexico. image © Ramiro Ramirez — An example of middle-class standard achieved by the residents themselves

"Their concept includes providing home buyers with information that enables them to build part of the house themselves. This allows more people to build houses in areas where they would otherwise not have been able to afford to live."

In response to this prestigious award, Elemental issued a statement on the website, saying that "receive this award, fulfil us with pride and we are truly thankful. We need to confess that with being happy we are a little surprised. First of all because this is not an architecture award, but one of Sustainability, with capital S, no adjectives."

"It is not evident a group of architects that receive an award in a field ruled by politicians that set the agenda. We were also surprised that an office that work in the southern hemisphere receive a recognition from Sweden, a pioneer country and a world reference for sustainability. To understand that what we do resonates in the rest of the world it is a great honour to us."

Alejandro Aravena wins 2017 Gothenburg Award for Sustainable Development

Siamese Towers, 2005, San Joaquín Campus, Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile, University classrooms and offices. image © Cristobal Palma

"There is no doubt that Sustainability has changed to become a complex definition difficult to solve, it is not only about an environmental challenge but it includes social, political, economic and cultural components. The more complex the questions, the more the need of synthesis."

"Building the future places where to live –cities, suburbs, rural territories- are ruled by complex forces, as in every complex system, sometimes in opposite and even contradictory directions. If architecture has any kind of power, is the power of synthesis. By synthesis we understand the capacity to coordinate the forces at play integrating the individual interest into a common good."

"To develop this approach is doing projects. This is why we describe ourselves as a Do Tank more than a Think Tank. We understand the city as a shortcut towards equity. Public spaces, infrastructure, public transport and social housing projects are opportunities to improve people ´s quality of life without having to exclusively depend on the income redistribution. 

"Social housing are not only a shelter for the environment; if they gain value over time, it can be a tool to overcome poverty. In there is scarcity of goods, an open system that allow incremental improvement for different actors, design can transform poor families in middle class citizens." 

"We can also think in the redistributive power of public space. If cities are measure in terms of what they can do for free, public spaces are a very powerful tool for communities. Citizens can enjoy and have a great experiences in their everyday life in civic places with quality." 

"This kind of award send a very powerful and auspicious message. It is a way to show scepticals that you can improve people quality of life in scarcities context, and this can be a reality more than a utopia."

Some of the previous winners of the award are Al Gore, former Vice President of United States, Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of United Nations in 2007 and a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and Gro Harlem Brundtland, Norway's first female Prime Minister.

Top image: Alejandro Aravena. Image © Elemental

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