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Grafton Architects

Written by Roma Publications

Grafton Architects

Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara 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 Adjutant Professors at UCD in 2015. They have been Visiting Professors at EPFL, Lausanne in 2010-2011. They held the Kenzō 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 Architettura, Mendrisio, Switzerland.

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 and ‘the Ogham Wall’ installation in 2015 in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

The practice has won numerous awards for their work. In 2016, Grafton Architects were honoured by being awarded the inaugural RIBA International Prize for Universidad de Ingenieria y Tecnologia (UTCE) in Lima, Peru. It has also recently been announced that they have won the 2020 RIBA Royal Gold Medal.

Yvonne Farrell and Shelly McNamara have also recently been selected as the 2020 Pritzker Prize Laureates.

“Architecture could be described as one of the most complex and important cultural activities on the planet,” said Farrell. “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 honour.”

McNamara states: “Architecture is a framework for human life. It anchors us and connects us to the world in a way which possibly no other space-making discipline can.”

Farrell continues: “At the core of our practice is a real belief that architecture matters. It is a cultural spiritual phenomenon that people invent.”
Farrell and McNamara are the 47th and 48th Laureates of the Pritzker Prize, and the first two recipients from Ireland.

Current projects include: The Marshall Institute, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Kingston University Town House, The London School of Economics, Institute Mines Telecom University Building, Paris Saclay, City Library, Parnell Square, Dublin with Shaffery Architects, Headquarters for Electricity Supply Board (ESB) with OMP architects in Dublin; all won by international competition.

Kingston University Town House

The new facility seeks to bring together the university and the local community and act as the university’s front door and a gateway to Kingston upon Thames. The Town House Building includes a learning resource centre, dance studio, covered courtyard, café, and is developed alongside a new landscaping scheme across the front of the campus. The six-storey building of open-plan interiors is unified and enveloped by the stone colonnades that form the facades of the building.

The interior is composed of large, interconnected halls and double and triple height spaces that overlap – physically and visually. The entrance lobby extends almost to the full height of the building, with staircases suspended from floorplates, adding a sculptural touch and physically weaving the layers of the building together. The architects have said: “University projects are miniature cities. There are three layers – administrators and professionals, lecture facilities and then there is the city.”

London School of Economics

Located on the dense urban campus on the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, at the intersection of three distinct and contrasting boroughs, The Marshall Building will house several business-related academic departments, a performing arts facility, multi-purpose halls, a café and more. The Great Hall, which will be the main point of entry into the building, is a vast public space of about 800 square metres of flexible, civic space intended to be used by hundreds on a daily basis and to provide a perfect setting for large-scale events such as exhibitions, talks, dinners and open days.

“As the building will contact the Marshall Institute of Philanthropy and Social Entrepreneurship, the ethos of the building and the spaces should represent a vision of diversity, openness, inclusiveness and a love of humanity.”

University of Toulouse

Located at a turning point of the Canal de Garonne, the site of the new School of Economics is important for the university and the city. The new building with seven stories above ground and two basements is, according to the architects, “a composition of the re-interpreted elements of Toulouse: the bitterness, the walls, the ramps, the cool mysterious interiors, the cloisters and the courtyards.”

In order to provide places of research and education, which are pleasurable to work in, the architects have devised a building strategy to maximise natural air, light and ventilation to each space within the building from offices to seminar rooms and terraces. This allows them to position larger volumes with very little fenestration to act as a “deep wall,” controlling light, shadow and shade.


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