As the first snow of the year fell on Gothenburg the city greeted this year’s winner of the Gothenburg Award for Sustainable Development, Chilean star architect Alejandro Aravena, together with four of his colleagues from architectural firm Elemental. This is the eighteenth time that the prize of SEK 1 million has been awarded, and the theme for 2017 was sustainable design.
Aravena and Elemental are renowned for their innovative design approach, which engages residents in the design process, and particularly for their projects in socio-economically vulnerable areas.
Aravena and Elemental arrived in Gothenburg on the evening of Monday 20 November to take part in several activities linked to the award ceremony. This year’s ceremony took place at the Draken cinema, and when the doors opened at 14.00 the foyer quickly filled with guests. More than 400 guests seated themselves in the lounge to watch the ceremony and enjoy music and video presentations. There were also video greetings from partner organisations and from last year’s award winner, Park Won Soon. The Sonica Sequence duo performed live music on stage together with video clips from their music documentary.
Alejandro Aravena was then presented with the Gothenburg Award for Sustainable Development, which he had chosen to share with his entire architectural team at Elemental. During his acceptance speech Aravena once again emphasised that:
“With the right design, sustainability is nothing but the rigorous use of common sense.”
Many of the activities the prize winner took part in during his stay in Gothenburg were arranged by partner organisations behind the prize. Elemental was for example invited to visit Peab and learn about its sustainability efforts and meet students from Peab School, who shared their ideas on how to improve sustainability. VGR and Lots Design also organised a do-tank exercise at Ringön, focusing on sustainable design, while Handelsbanken invited Elemental to a roundtable discussion with its customers.
Two of the activities were also open to the public. The first was a very successful Failure Lunch at the Museum of World Culture – a panel debate on the lessons that can be learned from mistakes and failures. And on Tuesday evening the RunAn conference hall at Chalmers University of Technology attracted an audience of over 400 people to listen to Aravena and ask questions about Elemental.