​The Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena has won the 2016 Pritzker Architecture Prize for work that "epitomizes the revival of a more socially engaged architect."

The award was announced on Wednesday by Tom Pritzker, chairman and president of the Chicago-based Hyatt Foundation, which sponsors the prize. Aravena, 48, is the first Pritzker laureate from Chile, and the fourth from Latin America.

The Pritzker Prize

Jurors praised Aravena as an artful and socially engaged architect. This aerial view shows his sustainable reconstruction project in Constitucion, Chile, built after the February 2010 earthquake and tsunami. (Felipe Diaz/ELEMENTAL/Associated Press)

In its citation, the jury noted that "few have risen to the demands of practicing architecture as an artful endeavour, as well as meeting today's social and economic challenges. Aravena ... has achieved both, and in doing so has meaningfully expanded the role of the architect."

The Pritzker Prize

Aravena designed five buildings for his alma mater, the Universidad Catolica de Chile, including its Angelini Innovation Center. Jurors called the building, co-designed by Juan Cerda, as 'a powerful structure from the distance' that is 'remarkably humane and inviting.' (Nina Vidic/ELEMENTAL/Associated Press)

The jury cited, among others, five buildings Aravena has designed for his alma mater, the Universidad Catolica de Chile, including its mathematics school, its medical school and, in 2014, its Angelini Innovation Center, an opaque concrete structure with a light-filled glass atrium inside.

The Pritzker Prize

At the centre of the school's Innovation Center is a light-filled glass atrium. (James Florio/ELEMENTAL/Associated Press)

"A powerful structure from a distance, it is remarkably humane and inviting," the jury said, noting that the unique design ensures that energy consumption is minimal. The design also includes "many spaces for spontaneous encounters and transparency that enables viewing activity throughout," it said.

Aravena's resume includes private, public and educational commissions. He has designed in the United States — a residence and dining hall at St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas — and elsewhere, including a building for the pharmaceutical company Novartis in Shanghai.

The Pritzker Prize

Alejandro Aravena's designs include private, public and educational commissions, including the residence hall at St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas. (Cristobal Palma/ELEMENTAL/Associated Press)

Speaking in Santiago, Aravena said he felt "huge gratitude" upon receiving the award, which he said was tantamount to a Nobel Prize in his field. He noted the collaborative nature of architecture.

Alejandro Aravena

Alejandro Aravena is seen attending the 2015 Pritzker Architecture Prize ceremony in Miami Beach. (John Parra/Getty Images for Pritzker Architecture Prize)

"Architecture is a collective discipline," he said. "It is done, to begin with, with the hands of others, the workers that build the designs, as opposed to a sculptor that makes it with his own hands."

Aravena mused about what the award would allow him to do in the future. "It gives you a sensation of great freedom," he said.

"The road to the future is not written, and that sensation of going on adventures to unexplored territory is in some way the spirit that's inside this office these days — what are we going to do now? We can risk whatever we want, we can take unprecedented challenges, and that really excites us."

The Pritzker Architecture Prize was established in 1979 by the late entrepreneur Jay A. Pritzker and his wife, Cindy, to honour "a living architect whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture."

The winner receives a $100,000 grant and a bronze medallion.

The Pritzker Prize

The Mathematics School of Chile's Catholic University, designed by Alejandro Aravena, is located in Santiago. (Tadeuz Jalocha/ELEMENTAL/Associated Press)