The Pritzker Prize–winning Chilean architect focuses on accessible housing

On April 4, 2016, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, Alejandro Aravena stood in front of an audience of his peers and guests. He told them how, as a student in distant Chile, he dreamed of experiencing the work of Pritzker Prize winners in person, but never thought he would win it himself. “At the time, we studied architecture in Chile by looking at pictures and photographs,” he told the audience. “Pritzker Prize winners, for us … were not architects; they were myths.”

The Pritzker Prize is one of the highest honors that can be bestowed on an architect’s body of work. Its honorees have quite literally shaped the landscape of the world we live in. The clean, modern aesthetic of Aravena’s concrete and glass structures have altered skylines in Chile, China, Mexico, Switzerland and Texas. His signature style incorporates stacked blocks and sloping angles; one part of a structure often appears to be leaning on another.