Pritzker Prize names Alejandro Aravena as jury chair and announces incoming executive director

Comings And Goings

Pritzker Prize names Alejandro Aravena as jury chair and announces incoming executive director

Alejandro Aravena and Manuela Lucá-Dazio ( Aravena photo by Sergio Lopez/Courtesy Diario El Mercurio)

Just weeks after the Pritzker Architecture Prize released a virtual ceremony honoring 2020 Pritzker laureates Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, the Prize has announced that Chilean architect and 2016 laureate Alejandro Aravena will serve as jury chair of the prestigious international award. The title was previously held by United States Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer (2019­–2020), who will remain a member of the jury.

The Chicago-based Prize has also shared that its longtime executive director, curator and editor Martha Thorne, will be stepping down beginning in March 2021 following the announcement of the 2021 laureate. Thorne, who is also dean of the IE School of Architecture and Design in Spain, has been executive director of the Pritzker Prize since 2005 and will remain on board in an advisory role through the 2021 ceremony to help oversee the transition alongside her successor, Manuela Lucá-Dazio. A Paris-based curator with an architectural history background and a wealth of experience organizing and producing exhibitions, Lucá-Dazio most recently served as executive director of the Department of Visual Arts and Architecture of the Venice Biennale.

“I look forward to joining the Pritzker Architecture Prize organization, to support its highly prestigious Jury and serve its mission to celebrate the quality in the profession for the enhancement of the built environment and the lives of those who inhabit it,” said Lucá-Dazio in a press statement released by the Pritzker Prize.

Thorne will continue in her role as dean at the IE School of Architecture and Design, a position she has held since 2015,  during the transitional period. Previous to joining the Prize in 2005 and enjoying what Thomas Pritzker, chairman of the Prize-sponsoring Hyatt Foundation, referred to as a “long and impactful tenure,” Thorne was associate curator of the Department of Architecture at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1996 to 2005.

“The experience and knowledge gained over the past fifteen years with the Prize has been an enormous privilege,” said Thorne. “Looking ahead, I am eager to expand my involvement in other initiatives where I can directly affect the field of architecture both working with people and institutions to engage the services of architects and devoting more time to writing.”

As for newly appointed jury chair Aravena, founder and executive director of Santiago-based architecture studio and social impact-focused “Do Tank” ELEMENTAL, he noted that: “Historically, architecture has been about creating innovative alternatives and imagining possibilities, but it is also intimately connected with society. As jurors, our task is, first, to be sensitive to those questions society would like the architectural profession to address, and to identify those architects that are trying to use the discipline’s body of knowledge to translate those questions into projects.”

“I am honored to join this group effort aimed to improve the quality of the built environment,” he added.

In addition to being bestowed with the 2016 Pritzker Prize, Aravena has received numerous other awards and accolades for his work including the Urban Land Institute J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development (2019), the RIBA Charles Jencks Award (2018), and the Gothenburg Sustainability Award (2017.) A previous Pritzker Prize jury member from 2009 to 2015, Aravena was curator of the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale and has taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (2000) as a visiting professor and at the Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia (2005). A graduate of  the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile in Santiago (home to his famous “Siamese Towers”), Aravena is also the ELEMENTAL Copec Chair at Universidad Católica de Chile.

“We are pleased to welcome back Alejandro Aravena, and in a renewed capacity as he brings with him a fresh model of leadership to steward our independent, international and esteemed jury,” said Pritzker.