Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, co-founders of Grafton Architects have been named 2020’s Pritzker Prize Award for architecture. Along with Grafton Architects’ body of work, the jury awarded the prize to Farrell and McNamara for the way they run their studio and "their generosity towards their colleagues". The two co-founded the award-winning firm in Dublin in 1978 where the office is still headquartered.
“Architecture could be described as one of the most complex and important cultural activities on the planet. To be an architect is an enormous privilege. To win this prize is a wonderful endorsement of our belief in architecture. Thank you for this great honor.”, Farrell mentioned in a press statement.
Recognized for their commitment to humanism, craft, and cultural connection, their approach to architecture is always honest, revealing an understanding of the processes of design and construction from large scale structures to the smallest details. Over the decades, the firm has completed a wide selection of projects and won the World Building of the Year award in 2008 for the Universita Luigi Bocconi in Milan and the RIBA International Prize for its University Campus UTEC Lima building in Peru. Its campus for the University of Limerick Medical School was shortlisted for the 2013 Stirling Prize.
The jury wrote, “For their integrity in their approach to both their buildings, as well as the way they conduct their practice, their belief in collaboration, their generosity towards their colleagues, especially as evidenced in such events as the 2018 Venice Biennale, their unceasing commitment to excellence in architecture, their responsible attitude toward the environment, their ability to be cosmopolitan while embracing the uniqueness of each place in which they work, for all these reasons and more, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara are awarded the 2020 Pritzker Architecture Prize.”
The architects are the first recipients from Ireland and are the fourth and fifth women to be named winners of the prestigious award. This follows Zaha Hadid in 2004, Kazuyo Sejima who won alongside Ryue Nishizawa in 2010, and Carme Pigem who won alongside Rafael Aranda and Ramón Vilalta in 2017.
Set up in 1979, the Pritzker Prize is considered to top architectural award and is modeled on the Nobel Prize, annually honoring the work of a living architect.