Dublin-based Grafton Architects have been selected to receive the UK’s highest honor for architecture, the Royal Gold Medal. The prize is awarded annually by the Royal Institute of British Architects in recognition of significant global contributions to architecture
Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell co-founded the practice in 1978 (the firm’s name was inspired by their original office on Grafton Street in central Dublin). Gerard Carty and Philippe O’Sullivan, who joined in 1992, now complete the leadership team as directors.
Grafton Architects have built an impressive portfolio of globally recognized buildings, most notably in the education sector, many of which resulted from international competition wins.
"Like architects around the world, everyone in Grafton Architects works hard to give each project the attention needed to hopefully enrich people’s lives," Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara commented on their Royal Gold Medal win.
"For us, architecture is an optimistic profession, with the opportunity to anticipate future realities. It is of the highest cultural importance because it is the built enclosure of human lives. It translates people’s needs and dreams into built form, into the silent language of space. We share this honor with all our clients, design teams, contractors and colleagues — past and current — working together, we translate ideas into reality."
In 2013, Grafton Architects made the RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist for the UK’s best building with their University of Limerick Medical School. Three years later, their daring design for the Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología (UTEC)in Lima, Peru was awarded the inaugural RIBA International Prize. (Listen to Archinect's interview with Yvonne Farrell to learn more about the project.)
In 2018, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara had the opportunity to curate the Venice Architecture Biennale. Under the banner of "Freespace," the exhibition was centered around issues of humanity and generosity — recurring principles from their own practice.
"From designing houses in wind-swept rural landscapes to substantial inner-city university projects, from curating and contributing to world class exhibitions to teaching within some of the world’s leading schools of architecture, the scale and scope of Grafton Architects’ influence is extraordinary," RIBA President Alan Jones praised the firm's achievements.
"Grafton Architects are impressive role models. Their work, philosophy and ambition are of profound importance, not just in their home country and the UK but across the globe. They show us all how architecture, practiced humbly and humanely, can make the world a better place."
The list of previous RIBA Royal Gold Medal recipients includes Nicholas Grimshaw, Neave Brown, Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Zaha Hadid, Sheila O'Donnell + John Tuomey, Joseph Rykwert, Peter Zumthor, Herman Hertzberger, and David Chipperfield, to name a few.
The Royal Gold Medal will be formally presented to Grafton Architects at a ceremony in early 2020.
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