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Grafton Architects duo become first Irish people to land coveted Pritzker Architecture Prize


Architects Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara. Photo: Alice Clancy

Architects Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara. Photo: Alice Clancy

Architects Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara. Photo: Alice Clancy

Irish architects Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara have been awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize today, becoming the first Irish people to win the award in the process.

The award is classed as the highest prize in architecture.

Farrell and McNamara are just the 47th and 48th laureates of the prestigious prize and were honoured with a special video paying tribute to their work, in lieu of an in-person ceremony due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Tom Pritzker, Chairman of The Hyatt Foundation, which sponsors the award said: “This is a time for new and agile thinking, not only about every space that we touch, but also for new thinking about our relationship with each other.

“It’s fitting, therefore, that this year’s Laureates, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, have first and foremost demonstrated that friendship, socialization and partnership are the wellspring for the humane ideals to which their built work is dedicated.”

The pair set up Grafton Architects together, building several notable buildings internationally, and also this year their company was awarded the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture.

Speaking on receipt of the award, Yvonne Farrell said: “Architecture is an ancient art, which needs each of us to continue and transform it.”

She later continued: “Each place on earth is unique. Celebrate that fact. Being an architect means that you add to the crust of this fragile planet.”

Speaking from the Long Room of Trinity College Library, Shelley McNamara said: “Standing here almost alone in this room, celebrating this wonderful honor of the Pritzker Prize, with no audience, brings to mind the empty stage of a Samuel Beckett play.

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“But of course, we are not alone. We are in a space which holds time, and knowledge, and treasures of the mind. We can feel the presence of all the great people who passed through this great space. We chose this room so that we could celebrate the power of architecture here in our own city. So that we would feel part of a bigger order, which of course is one of the functions of architecture.”

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