Photo by Chile Sotheby’s International Realty via
By Centro de Políticas Públicas UC - Premio Abdón Cifuentes 2015 - Alejandro Aravena, CC BY 3.0

Alejandro Aravena

Founder & Architect

Elemental S.A.


Founder & Architect


Elemental S.A.






Lifestyle & Culture

What makes Alejandro Aravena a Global Shaker?

The multi award-winning Alejandro Gastón Aravena Mori graduated as an architect from the Universidad Católica de Chile in 1992 and set up his own practice two years later. He is at the forefront of a new, more environmentally conscious generation of architects, having made a name for himself in pioneering imaginative social housing.

Since 2001, he has been at the helm of ELEMENTAL, which he describes as a “do tank” rather than a think tank. The firm focuses on the social impact of projects that encompass housing, public space, infrastructure and transport. After the natural disasters that affected hit Chile, ELEMENTAL was contracted to work on the reconstruction of the city of Constitución, Chile.

“In cities like ours in Latin America, there is not enough money or space,” he explained to Architizer. “You have to establish priorities. This is something that I think is very healthy in the urban structure. You have to be very clear about what produces the most public good and what will only benefit a certain constituency on a private level.”

Alejandro and the ELEMENTAL team have been responsible for designing more than 2,500 imaginative units of low-cost social housing. He has also designed a number of projects for his alma mater, including the “Siamese Towers,” a workshop building at the school of architecture, and the cube-shaped UC Innovation Center, Anacleto Angelini, for which he won the architecture category in the London Design Museum’s 2015 Designs of the Year.

From 2009 to 2015, Alejandro was a member of the Pritzker Prize Jury, which holds the significance of the Nobel Prize in the field of architecture. In 2016, he was the winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize himself.

“Alejandro Aravena epitomizes the revival of a more socially engaged architect, especially in his long-term commitment to tackling the global housing crisis and fighting for a better urban environment for all,” stated the 2016 jury citation. “He has a deep understanding of both architecture and civil society, as is reflected in his writing, his activism and his designs. The role of the architect is now being challenged to serve greater social and humanitarian needs, and Alejandro Aravena has clearly, generously and fully responded to this challenge.”

In 2010, he was named International Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects and listed as one of the 20 new heroes of the world by Monocle magazine. He also contributed to the Rio +20 Global Summit in 2012.

He is a member of several boards throughout the world, such as the Cities Program of the London School of Economics, the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, the Swiss Holcim Foundation, the Chilean Public Policies Society, and the Helsinki Design Lab for SITRA, the Finnish Government Innovation Fund.

Alejandro has also taught at several universities, including Harvard Graduate School of Design, Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia, Architectural Association in London, and the London School of Economics.

Tags: architecture, South America

Last updated: May 29, 2019