University Campus UTEC Lima by Grafton Architects.
Photo: Iwan Baan

The 2020 Pritzker Prize Is Awarded to Grafton Architects

Architects Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara are the first female duo to win the prestigious award
Yvonne Farrell (left) and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects. Photo: Alice Clancy

For the first time in history, two women have been awarded the annual Pritzker Prize, architecture’s most prestigious honor. The recipients are Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, who cofounded Dublin-based Grafton Architects in 1978. Notably, Farrell and McNamara are also the first laureates to hail from Ireland.

The pair—who have completed major university complexes, sweeping exhibitions, and even diminutive urban dwellings—can now be counted among the tiny circle of winners that includes such luminaries as Jean Nouvel, Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano, and Norman Foster. “To be an architect is an enormous privilege,” said Farrell in a statement announcing the award. “To win this prize is a wonderful endorsement of our belief in architecture.”

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Known for crafting robust structures that are thoughtfully integrated into their surroundings, the duo is praised for making a concerted effort to utilize sustainable construction methods and bring a human scale to even their largest projects. Among their best-known works are the University Campus of UTEC Lima, which is perched on a precipitous site abutting a ravine, and Milan’s Universita Luigi Bocconi, which earned them the World Building of the Year Award at the 2008 World Architecture Festival.

Institut Mines Télécom. Photo: Alexandre Soria

Two years ago, Farrell and McNamara curated the Venice Architecture Biennale, where they explored the practice’s ability to give back to its citizens in a meaningful and measurable way. And in October the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) revealed that Grafton had been awarded the 2020 Royal Gold Medal, the highest architectural honor in the U.K.

“The collaboration between Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara represents a veritable interconnectedness between equal counterparts,” stated the Pritzker jury. “They demonstrate incredible strength in their architecture, show deep relation to the local situation in all regards, establish different responses to each commission while maintaining the honesty of their work, and exceed the requirements of the field through responsibility and community.”

See below for some of their most incredible projects:

London School of Economics and Political Science. Photo: Grafton Architects
Urban Institute of Ireland. Photo: Ros Kavanagh
University Campus UTEC Lima Photo: Iwan Baan
Town House Building, Kingston University. Photo: Ed Reeves
University Campus UTEC Lima. Photo: Iwan Baan
Universita Luigi Bocconi. Photo: Federico Brunetti

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