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Ask a design expert for global architectural destinations and chances are she’ll tell you to head to Germany, home of Walter Gropius and the Bauhaus architects, or Brazil, land of Oscar Niemeyer’s flamboyant Modernism. Southern California would come up for treasures such as the Case Study houses and Louis Kahn’s sculptural Salk Institute in La Jolla. But a small country such as Chile? It probably wouldn’t even be mentioned.
That could soon change.
Chilean architects have begun to exert an influence well beyond the size and scale of their string-bean nation.
Since 2009, Chile’s Alejandro Aravena, founding partner of Elemental, a design firm specializing in public-interest projects, has occupied a highly influential post on the jury for the Pritzker Prize, architecture’s most prestigious award. The mediagenic architect — who sports a spiky crown of salt-and-pepper hair — has taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, delivered a TED talk and been an innovator in the design of affordable housing and constructed buildings in Chile, Mexico and the U.S. He is now at work on his first project in China: a campus for the pharmaceutical giant Novartis.
Other Chilean architects are garnering recognition. At the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale, Pedro Alonso and Hugo Palmarola won the Silver Lion award. It was the second Chilean win in three biennials. And in 2014, Smiljan Radic built the annual pavilion at London’s Serpentine Gallery, an honor that previously went to Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry. The London Evening Standard described Radic’s craggy-yet-luminous doughnut structure, supported by boulders, as “an idea that looks forward as well as back.” […]