Chilean architect and Elemental co-founder Alejandro Aravena has been named recipient of the 2018 RIBA Charles Jencks Award
The award is given to an individual or practice that has made a major international contribution to the theory and practice of architecture.
Aravena, who won the Pritzker Prize in 2016 and curated the Venice Biennale in 2016, has been recognised for his socially minded work in areas such as social housing, poverty, conflict zones and the environment.
Chair of the judging panel and RIBA director of education David Gloster said: ‘Alejandro Aravena is an excellent role model for students and emerging practitioners. Energetically combining professional practice, written pedagogy, and academia, his work has a classical tectonic force, a humbling relevance to the global debate about social housing, and a refusal to be subject to conventional expectations.’
Aravena graduated as an architect from the Catholic University of Chile in 1992, before continuing his studies at IUAV in Venice.
After establishing his own practice, Alejandro went on to teach at Harvard University, where he founded the Elemental practice with Andrés Iacobelli.
The practice works on projects of public interest and social impact across the housing, public space, infrastructure and transport sectors.
Aravena’s citation, by Gloster, said: ‘Aravena’s work covers a great deal of ground, from production of a respectable body of published work via bespoke projects for traditional patrons such as universities, as well as an approach to incremental housing which can grow with the occupying family (or families).
‘Working creatively across polarities of architectural expression and interest means that his work is unpredictable, diverse, and unafraid to explore the unfamiliar.’
The award will be presented on 15 October, followed by a lecture by Aravena.
The RIBA Charles Jencks Award was established with prize money awarded to cultural theorist and Maggie’s Centre co-founder Charles Jencks from the Nara Gold Medal, which he received in 1992. It was first awarded in 2003 and its most recent previous recipient was Níall McLaughlin in 2016.
Alejandro Aravena/Elemental’s Quinta Monroy Housing