When news broke yesterday that Alejandro Aravena was the winner of this year's Pritzker Architecture Prize, reactions were generally positive, albeit a bit conflicted. Aravena is most praised, and cited by the Pritzker, for his work on social housing projects in his home base of Santiago de Chile, where he operates as the executive director of the "do tank", ELEMENTAL. And few would contest that his work is worthy of the prize, despite the fact that he's only 48.
But Aravena was also a Pritzker juror from 2009 - 2015, serving alongside jurors who ultimately chose to cite him, and he isn't the first winner to have previously served on the jury. And as a juror, he was a vocal proponent of the Pritzker highlighting more socially-minded, communitarian work. This makes it impossible to ignore criticism that the award tends to stay within a pretty tight-knit circle of practitioners. Often described as the most prestigious architecture award out there, what is the point of the prize nowadays, and is its significance justified?
We wanted to know more about how the Pritzker is awarded, and its self-awareness in the eyes of architects as well as the greater public. On the day the Pritzker was announced, Martha Thorne, executive director of the Pritzker Prize, generously gave us insight into "the room where it happens" – how the jury's deliberation work, and what makes Aravena's work deserving of the prize.
Listen to episode 48 of Archinect Sessions, "Making A Pritzker Laureate" with Martha Thorne:
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