Do Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara make news for being talented or for winning the Pritzker prize for architecture against their male colleagues? The question is imposed by reading the titles …
Breaking the taboo, so we can deduce that the taboo still exists and illustrious female “predecessors” were not enough to make it fall- in 40 years of history there were only three winners before them, that is her majesty Zaha Hadid in 2004 , Kazuyo Sejima in 2010 with Ryue Nishizawa and Carme Pigem in 2017 with Ramón Vilalta and Rafael Aranda). The battle on the field of women’s empowering is still in force and finds in the Irish duo two sparkling, new champions!
The 2020 Pritzker Prize is internationally established as the Nobel Prize for architecture, the most prestigious recognition of architecture, is certainly good news, but for what good reasons? Do Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, founders of Dublin’s Grafton Studio, get on the podium but will they go down in history?
Their career began in the late 70s and has left indelible traces especially in the architecture of schools, universities and public buildings, designing iconic buildings that have become part of the “Bible” of architecture including the new Ministry of Finance in Dublin , the Bocconi School of Economics in Milan, the London School of Economics and the campus of the Lima engineering and technology school in Peru, thanks to which they reiceved the RIBA International Prize.
Still fresh memory their curatorship of the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2018 in the name of the Freespace that explored “the generosity of spirit and the sense of humanity that architecture places at the center of its agenda, concentrating attention to the quality of the space itself “.
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“Architecture could be described as one of the most complex and important cultural activities on the planet. To be an architect is an enormous huge privilege. To win this prize is a wonderful endorsement of our belief in architecture. Thank you for this great honor ” thanked Farrell “What we try to do in our work is to be aware of the various levels of citizenship and try to find an architecture that deals with overlap, that heightens your relationship to one another,”
McNamara, co-founder and partner of the studio, plugged in “architecture is a lens through which we look at human life. It fixes us and connects us to the world in a way that probably no other visual or spatial discipline can do. “
The jury of architects and professors, chaired by the former Supreme Court Judge Stephen Breyer, states “For their integrity in their approach to both their buildings, as well the way they conduct their practice, their belief in collaboration, their generosity towards their colleagues, especially as evidence 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 collaboration between Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara represents a veritable interconnectedness between equal counterparts,” illustrates Pritzker. “They demonstrate incredible strength in their architecture, show deep relation to the local situation in all regards, establish different responses to each commission while maintaining the honesty of their work, and exceed the requirements of the field through responsibility and community.”
The decision was rooted in their way of conceiving architecture, constantly pursuing – without hesitation – the highest quality for the specific place where it would have been built, for the functions it would host and especially for the people who would have inhabited the buildings and used the spaces, underlining along the way their vital contribution to gender equality. They are pioneers in a field that has traditionally been – and still is – a profession dominated by men, they represent a model, a lighthouse for other women with their exemplary professional path.
We hope that, as metaphoric lighthouses, their light will shine on the route of new generations of assertive and strong-willed women in architecture, who will be able to climb the heights, make plans and fulfill life achievements without earning high-sounding titles on the “women power” kind of victory.
After all, Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, is embodied by a graceful female figure, mentioned by Hesiod as early as 383. We have made it so far and we will make it all the way on the road driven by the winged Goddess!