Pritzker Prize goes to Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena | Arts | DW | 04.04.2016
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Pritzker Prize goes to Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena

Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena has won this year's Pritzker Architecture Prize, one of the world's most prestigious awards in the field, for his social engagement.

Alejandro Aravena's work "epitomizes the revival of a more socially engaged architect," said the Pritzker Prize jury when his nomination was announced in January. The ceremony for the prestigious architecture award takes place on Monday, April 4.

The 48-year-old architect is the first winner from Chile and the fourth from Latin America in the prize's 37-year history.

Upon learning of the award, Aravena said that he felt "huge gratitude." Speaking in Santiago, he explained, "Architecture is a collective discipline. It is done with the hands of others, the workers who build the designs, as opposed to a sculptor who makes something with his own hands," he said, comparing the Pritzker Prize to the Nobel Prize.

Aravena has designed a number of buildings for educational instutions, including five for his alma mater, the Universidad Catolica de Chile, as well as a residence and dining hall at St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas.

He has also taken on private commissions such as for a building in Shanghai, China, for the pharmaceutical company Novartis.

Author of a number of books and named one of the "20 new heroes of the world" by "Monocle" magazine, Aravena is the director of the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016.

Previous winners include Otto, Hadid, Gehry

German architect Frei Otto, pictured in 2005, Copyright: picture-alliance/dpa/Frank Mächler

Frei Otto died last year shortly before winning the Pritzker Prize

According to the Pritzker Prize website, the accolade has two major aims: to "stimulate greater public awareness of buildings" and "inspire greater creativity within the architectural profession."

Last year's award went to renowned German architect Frei Otto, who passed away on March 9, 2015. To honor him posthumously, the prize committee released its official announcement two weeks earlier than planned. Otto became world famous for his design of the iconic 1972 Olympic Stadium in Munich. With its tent-like roof, the stadium is now one of the city's best-known landmarks.

Previous winners include Gottfried Böhm (1986), Frank Gehry (1989), and Norman Foster (1999). Zaha Hadid became the prize's first female winner in 2004. The youngest winner, then 44-year-old Ryue Nishizawa of Japan, was named in 2010. Nishizawa shared the prize with his firm partner, Kazuyo Sejima, marking the third time the award went to two architects at the same time.

Named for its founder, American entrepreneur Jay A. Pritzker, the Pritzker Archtiecture Prize has been presented annually since 1979 and is endowed with $100,000. The Chicago-based Pritzker family is closely associated with the Hyatt Hotel chain.

Jay A. Pritzker's son, Thomas J. Pritzker, said, "As native Chicagoans, it's not surprising that our family was keenly aware of architecture, living in the birthplace of the skyscraper, a city filled with buildings designed by architectural legends such as Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, and many others."

kbm/rf (AP, dpa,

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