Nobel Architecture 2020: the most significant projects by Farrell and McNamara

The Pritzker Prize is usually considered the Nobel Prize in architecture, as it is the most prestigious prize in the world for an architect. An award that has in the past been given to big names like Zaha Hadid, Renzo Piano, Tadao Ando and Frank Gehry. This year’s jury has chosen two Irish architects – Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara – for creating “spaces that are both respectful and new at the same time, which honour history and at the same time demonstrate a mastery of the urban environment and art of construction”.

The prize for a unique career

The announcement (available on the Pitzker website: continues by underlining how Farrell and McNamara have managed in their career to “balance strength and delicacy” but “always respecting the specific contexts of places, whether they were academic, civic and cultural institutions or housing solutions, translating them into modern and impactful unique works, always original”.
The emphasis is rightly placed on the civic value of the work of the two Grafton Architects studio Irish architects: in over 40 years of work, they have become important names in international architecture mainly thanks to buildings built for public and academic institutions..

The works of Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara

Here is a selection of the buildings designed by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara:

  • Bocconi University in Milan.
    Inaugurata ad Inaugurated in October 2008, the Bocconi headquarters in via Roentgen in Milan were designed as “continuity between the city landscape and that of the University” thanks to the creation of an ‘exterior made in solid Gré, a typical local stone present in many Milanese building” and thanks to the solution of a 90-meter sidewalk capable of recreating “a public space that continues inside the building, bringing inside the pavement of the city”.
nobel architettura bocconi
Università Luigi Bocconi, photo courtesy of Federico Brunetti
  • The University Campus of Lima.
    With this project, Farrell and McNamara won the Silver Lion at the 2012 Architecture Biennale and the RIBA International Prize in 2016. An extraordinary high-impact building which, according to Farrell herself, “looks like an artificial cliff carved in concrete”.
Nobel architettura lima
University Campus UTEC Lima, photo courtesy of Iwan Baan
  • Medical School in Limerick.
    In this four-storey medical school, a grey limestone facade recalls the typical local architecture, while in the inside kitchens and living rooms face on the north side of the campus..
Nobel architettura Limerick
Medical School, University of Limerick, photo courtesy of Dennis Gilbert
  • The Town House Building of the University of Kingston (London).

    A public building that unusually brings together a library and several dance studios. A project that well represents the idea of ​​public space in the mind of the two architects: a space that must appear and be open (therefore, both physically and symbolically). This comes out clearly from the choice not to put any physical barrier between the Town House and the street.
Nobel Architettura Kingston
Town House Building, Kingston University, photo courtesy of Dennis Gilbert
  • The School of Economics of the University of Toulouse.

    A project that, in the words of the two winners, s a “reinterpreted set of the characteristic elements of Toulouse: the buttresses, the walls, the ramps, the fresh but mysterious interiors, the cloisters and courtyards”.
Nobel architettura tolosa
Université Toulouse 1 Capitole, School of Economics, photo courtesy of Dennis Gilbert
  • The Urban Institute of Ireland (Dublin).

    This Dublin institution, used by several university faculties of the Irish capital, has a facade of terracotta tiles, red bricks and granite slabs. It is composed of a double-height ground floor with laboratories and research rooms, and grid-made upper floors that contrast with the rest of the structure, causing an interesting spatial complexity.
nobel architettura urban institute
Urban Institute of Ireland, photo courtesy of Ros Kavanagh

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