Beauty, Brick by Brick
The ancient Incan pilgrimage site of Limaq - known today as Peru’s 10 million-strong capital Lima - might seem like the last place one would look to find Irish influence, but Dublin’s Grafton Architects have made major design waves in the Americas as well as elsewhere around the globe.
Established in 1978 as a school and library design outfit, Grafton Architects has spent the past 39 years building an extraordinary portfolio of international work that today boasts groundbreaking constructions in such locations as Milan, Glasgow and, yes, Peru.
The company is run by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, both University College Dublin graduates, Fellows of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI), International Honorary Fellows of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), and elected members of Aosdána, an association of artists who’ve made outstanding contributions to Irish arts. Their collective vision over the years has seen the firm collect many accolades, including the prestigious international best building prize in 2016 for the Universidad de Ingenieri´a y Tecnologi´a (UTEC) in Lima, Peru.
Described by judges as an exceptional example of civil architecture, the “modern day Machu Picchu” is the first-ever winner of the prize, rigorously judged and awarded by RIBA. Selected from a shortlist of six cultural buildings across five continents, UTEC, located in the Barranco district of Lima, is the stylistically brutalist culmination of years of work by Grafton Architects, and its creators have been lauded for their ability to propose a new way of thinking about public buildings.
Marking this incredible achievement as an embodiment of their years of work, the firm is now set to receive the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal. A high honour, the medal is awarded by the University of Virginia in the United States to acknowledge exemplary endeavours in the fields of Architecture, Law, Citizen Leadership and Global Innovation. Farrell and McNamara will receive the award at a formal ceremony at the university in April 2017.
No strangers to the prestigious Venice Architectural Biennale, the firm represented Ireland there in 2012, in 2018 Farrell and McNamara will have the honour of curating the renowned showcase exhibition. Their curation is expected to focus on the quality of the public and private space.
In the interim, the team at Grafton Architects are hard at work on more new projects, including designing the new Paul Marshall Institute for the London School of Economics, the new School of Economics for University Toulouse 1 Capitole School of Economics in Toulouse, France, the new Town House Building at Kingston University London, and the Parnell Square Cultural Quarter Project - a brand new library with connecting social spaces set to open in their hometown of Dublin in 2018.