The Pritzker Architecture Prize, widely known as the Nobel Prize in Architecture, has been awarded to Irish architects, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara. This marks the first time in the history of the prize that it has been awarded to two women. They are also the first two recipients from Ireland.
Farell and McNamara are the founders of the Dublin-based architectural firm Grafton architects, which they found in 1978. They have worked extensively in their home country but have also designed renowned buildings in Italy, Peru, France, and the United Kingdom.
The duo, who met as architecture students at University College Dublin, has produced a wide range of residential, commercial, and civic buildings since the firm began. However, they are primarily known for their educational buildings.
They rose to global fame in 2008, when their design for the Bocconi University’s Milan campus was named the World Building of the Year at the World Architecture Festival. Since then, they have worked on a wide range of educational buildings, which include the University College Dublin, the Toulouse School of Economics and the London School of Economics.
The University of Engineering and Technology’s campus in Lima, Peru won them the prestigious RIBA International Prize in 2016.
They were also in the news for curating the world’s largest architectural exhibition, the Venice Biennale, in 2018.
Interestingly, the two have also worked as professors as well as designers through their career. “We’re passionately interested in education,” McNamara said during a 2015 lecture at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden. “The university should be a place where knowledge is tended to like a garden. And we’re the guardians of knowledge.”
In giving them the honour, the judges praised 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.”
What is the Pritzker Prize?
Established in 1979, the Pritzker Prize in Architecture seeks “to honor a living architect or architects whose built work demonstrates a combination of those qualities of talent, vision, and commitment, which has produced consistent and significant contributions to humanity and the built environment through the art of architecture.”
It was established by the Pritzker family of Chicago through their Hyatt Foundation and is often considered the highest award in the field of architecture.
First awarded to Philip Johnson in 1979, the award consists of $100,000 (US) and a bronze medallion.
Only three women have earlier received this honour – Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid in 2004, Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima in 2010, and Spanish architect Carme Pigem in 2017.0