Ireland's Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara win 2020 Pritzker Architecture Prize

The pair have designed buildings in Peru, Italy and Ireland

Irish design duo Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara have won the 2020 Pritzker Prize, considered to be the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in architecture, the highest honour in the industry.

The founders of Grafton Architects were announced as the 2020 laureates on Tuesday, March 3.

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

The duo are the first women pair to win the prize. In 2017 Carme Pigem won with Rafael Aranda and Ramon Vilalta, in 2010 Kazuyo Sejima won with Ryue Nishizawa; and in 2004 Zaha Hadid was individually named prize laureate. Hadid was the first female prize winner, all other winners, since 1979, have been male.

Farrell and Shelley McNamara met while studying in Dublin in the 1970s. They taught at the School of Architecture at University College Dublin from 1976 until 2002.

Bocconi University, Designed By Grafton Architects, Arch, Shelley Mcnamara, Yvonne Farrell, Milan, Italy. (Photo by Marka/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

“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 towards 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,” states the 2020 Jury Citation.

McNamara says of the honour: “Within the ethos of a practice such as ours, we have so often struggled to find space for the implementation of such values as humanism, craft, generosity, and cultural connection with each place and context within which we work. It is therefore extremely gratifying that this recognition is bestowed upon us and our practice and upon the body of work we have managed to produce over a long number of years.

“It is also a wonderful recognition of the ambition and vision of the clients who commissioned us and enabled us to bring our buildings to fruition.”

You can see buildings designed by the duo globally, from Peru to Italy, France, Ireland and England.

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