Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell co-founded Grafton Architects in 1978 having graduated from University College Dublin in 1974. They are Fellows of the RIAI, International Honorary Fellows of the RIBA and elected members of Aosdána, the eminent Irish Art organisation.
Teaching at the School of Architecture at University College Dublin from 1976 to 2002, they were appointed Adjunct Professors at UCD in 2015. They have been Visiting Professors at EPFL, Lausanne from 2010 – 2011. They held the Kenzo Tange Chair at GSD Harvard in 2010 and the Louis Kahn chair at Yale in the Autumn of 2011. Currently, they are Professors at the Accademia di Archittettura, Mendrisio, Switzerland.
In 2018, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara were the Curators of the Venice Architecture Biennale. Their manifesto : Freespace was the title of the Biennale.
Grafton Architects have participated in numerous exhibitions including : the Sensing Spaces Exhibition in 2014 in the Royal Academy in London; a Pavilion for the 2014 Tercentenary of the City of Barcelona; ‘the Ogham Wall’ installation in 2015 in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
Current projects include The Marshall Institute, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, for the London School of Economics; City Library Parnell Square Dublin with Shaffrey Architects ; Headquarters for Electricity Supply Board (ESB) with OMP architects in Dublin; all won by international competition.
Recently completed projects include The Town House Building, Kingston University London; The School of Economics for the University of Toulouse 1 Capitol; Institut Mines Télécom University Building, Paris Saclay.
The practice has won numerous awards for their work, including:
The RIAI Institute of Architects of Ireland Gold Medal for Architecture 2007 – 2009 for Universita Luigi Bocconi, Milan, Italy; the Jane Drew Prize awarded to Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara in 2015;
the inaugural RIBA International Prize for the Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología (UTEC) in Lima, Peru in 2016 and the University of Virginia and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello Architecture Medal in 2017.
In 2019 Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara were awarded honorary degrees from NUI Galway and from Trinity College Dublin. Yvonne and Shelley were commended for their contribution to Irish society.
In 2019, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) awarded the RIAI James Gandon Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Architecture to Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, of Grafton Architects. The Gandon Medal is the highest personal award given to an Architect in Ireland.
The practice was recently presented with the 2020 RIBA Royal Gold Medal in London.
The Royal Gold Medal is given to a person or group of people who have had a significant influence “either directly or indirectly on the advancement of architecture”.
Shelley and Yvonne have been selected as the 2020 Pritzker Prize Laureates, the award that is known internationally as architecture’s highest honour.
About the project UTEC Engineering and Technology University in Peru, Three Local Approaches, you can read in Oris 104.
Photo by: Alice Clancy