Between Reason and Intuition

architect Alejandro Aravena
interviewed by Umberto Bonomo


Interviewed in Santiago de Chile on 29 June 2016.


Alejandro Aravena is an architect, professor, this year’s winner of the Pritzker Prize and the curator of the Venice Biennale. His professional development is constantly in an interplay of the theoretical and practical dimension marked by lucid pragmatism. The theory is here understood not so much as theorizing about things, but rather as the foundation of the project on the conceptual basis which is logical, precise and irreducible. Discursive and communication skills, together with extreme capabilities of synthesizing a problem without diminishing its complexity, made him one of the reference names in the world of contemporary architecture. Aravena thinks of the architectural profession as a joint work that emerges through the discussion of ideas. This is why he founded elemental in 2001, together with partners Gonzalo Arteaga, Juan Cerda, Victor Oddó and Diego Torres.


ORIS — Your monograph published by Electa has an equation on the cover. It is no coincidence that there is an X on the cover of the book, since you talk about the ability of architecture to synthesize problems. And is there a bigger synthesis than an X in an equation. But we both know that this synthesis would like to say a lot. This is something specific, but always different. How do you find that precision? What is your starting point?


Alejandro Aravena — The meaning of the equation has to do with clarifying the conditions which an architectural project must match. It does not intend to be scientific and say that there is only one possible answer; actually for the same X there are multiple solutions. But while someone states which forces are in play, which are the dimensions that should be taken care of, it is more important to check how well or how poorly something was carried out with regard to given conditions. That is to say, what interests me more than the value of X itself – which should preferably be as irreducible as possible and in this regard maximally synthesized – are conditions. And this equation represents that, in the sense that it suddenly seems to you that the questions of structure are as important as economic, legal, environmental questions, and not only measurable, material or concrete, there are untouchable dimensions which are also part of the problem. What is important for us is to identify with the greatest possible precision what it is that constitutes the form of the project. I would say that the thing is more in posing precise questions than in answers.