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Life & Arts

Award-Winning Architect Has Only One Design in the U.S., and It's Right Down the Road

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St. Edward's University
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The 2016 Pritzker Prize, often called the Nobel Prize for architects, was awarded this week to Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena. Known for his “incremental" — partially unfinished — building designs, Aravena has only one creation standing in the U.S., and it happens to be in Austin.

In 2008, Aravena designed a residence and dining complex on the campus of St. Edward’s University. Aravena has said he designed the buildings with a monastery in mind. Melba Whatley, Chairman of the Facilities Committee at St. Edward’s, was closely involved in commissioning Aravena to design the building.

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Credit St. Edward's University
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“It is so lively in the plaza around the building that he created, because the building is a surprise when you walk into it, it’s like walking inside of a  — it’s like walking inside a geode,” she says.

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Credit St. Edward's University
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Whatley says hiring Aravena, who at that time had never designed a building in the U.S., was in line with the university’s goals of becoming more global.

“He’s obviously a great architect, but it’s still amazing to me that we have the only one of his work in the country right now. And that won’t stay, I’m pretty sure,” she says.

Along with designing buildings for universities and other institutions, Aravena’s work also includes designing affordable housing developments in his native Chile. Below, watch Aravena deliver a 2014 TED Talk in which he explains what inspired his innovative approach to affordable housing. 

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