Courtesy RIBA

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) announced that Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena will receive the 2018 Charles Jencks Award. Established in 2003, the award recognizes an individual or practice that has made recent contributions to the theory and practice of architecture.

“Alejandro Aravena combines a shrewd social commitment with compelling formal expression," said David Gloster, director of education at RIBA in a press release. "He has recalibrated building typologies across the architectural landscape. This versatility is not glib, and never at the expense of an architecture which demonstrates elegance and social purpose, qualities rarely combined in a single individual.”

Universidad Católica de Chile Innovation Center, Santiago, Chile
Courtesy RIBA Universidad Católica de Chile Innovation Center, Santiago, Chile

Born in Santiago, Chile, Aravena graduated with a B.Arch. from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (UC) and later went on to study at Iuav University of Venice in Italy. He was a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in Boston when he founded his Santiago, Chile–based firm Elemental in 2001. The self-proclaimed “do tank” firm is also led by partners Gonzalo Arteaga, Juan Ignacio Cerda, Víctor Oddó, and Diego Torres.

In 2008, Aravena won the Silver Lion Award—a prize that recognizes young talent—at the Venice Biennale, an event he subsequently curated in 2016. Aravena served on the Pritzker Prize jury from 2009 until 2015, before winning the award in 2016.

Aravena advocates for a “participatory design” process, which takes the present and future concerns of the public and the local governments into account when developing a project, he explained in his TED Talk. “It is mainly trying to identify, with precision, ‘what is the right question?’ There’s nothing worse than answering, well, the wrong question,” he said in the 2014 presentation.

Casa Ocho Quebradas, Los Vilos, Chile
Courtesy RIBA Casa Ocho Quebradas, Los Vilos, Chile

Previous winners of the Charles Jencks Award include Níall McLaughlin, founder of Níall McLaughlin Architects; Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron; Benedetta Tagliabue, co-founder of Miralles Tagliabue EMBT; Rem Koolhaas, co-founder of OMA; Eric Owen Moss, FAIA, founding principal of Eric Owen Moss Architects; Steven Holl, FAIA, founding principal of Steven Holl Architects; Charles Correa, Hon. FAIA, founder of Charles Correa Associates; Wolf D. Prix, Hon. FAIA, co-founder, design principal, and CEO of Coop Himmelb(l)au; Ben van Berkel, Hon. FAIA, and Caroline Bos, founding principal architect and co-founding principal urban planner, respectively, of UNStudio; Zaha Hadid, founder of Zaha Hadid Architects; Alejandro Zaera-Polo and Farshid Moussavi, formerly of Foreign Office Architects; Peter Eisenman, FAIA, founding principal of Eisman Architects; and Cecil Balmond, founder of Balmond Studio.

The award ceremony and lecture will take place on Monday, Oct. 15, at 6:30 p.m. at RIBA’s London headquarters.

See more of ARCHITECT's coverage of Elemental.