Book of the Week: Elemental
A beautiful monograph on the work of Alejandro Aravena, one of the most visionary architects of the 21st century…
Named after the practice founded by one of the most exciting talents in modern architecture (the author of the book is listed as ‘Alejandro Aravena et al’), Elemental focuses on the work to date of the Santiago-based firm who have achieved worldwide acclaim for their post-brutalist designs.
Famed for their pioneering, socially engaged approach, the Chilean architects specialise in innovative, powerful and humane public-interest projects, with notable buildings not only in Chile but also the United States, Mexico, Switzerland and China.
New Coastal Road: part of PRES: Post-Tsunami Sustainable Reconstruction Plan, 2010, Constitución, Chile. Photo by Felipe Díaz
Featuring sketches and drawings from Aravena’s personal notebooks as well as countless previously unpublished photos of Elemental’s work, the book offers a thorough exploration of the practice’s often unusual working methods and outlook – and is designed to be as irreverent as the designers themselves. Arevena’s own text brings to life his thoughts on – and personal sense of responsibility for – civil society and the built environment, focusing on iconic designs such as the Anacleto Angelini UC Innovation Centre, shortlisted for the Design Museum’s Design of the Year in 2015.
Moving beyond the usual remit of a design monograph, the book also explores the formative experiences of its partners, explaining how they developed their unique philosophy for the practice which Aravena founded almost a quarter of a century ago with Andrés Iacobelli. it is now rightfully acknowledged as one of the leading lights in architectural innovation, having won the prestigious Pritzker Prize in 2016 – the same year that Aravena was director and curator of the architecture section of the Venice Biennale.
Top image: Anacleto Angelini UC Innovation Centre, Universidad Católica, 2011, Santiago, Chile. Photo by Cristóbal Palma.