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UCD graduates win RIBA International Prize

Thursday, 24 November, 2016

The first ever (opens in a new window)RIBA International Prize has been won by two UCD graduates for their design of the (opens in a new window)Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnologia (UTEC) building in Lima, Peru.

Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara led the project on behalf of their firm (opens in a new window)Grafton Architects. The two women started the practice in 1978 soon after graduating from UCD School of Architecture.

The RIBA jury, chaired by Pompidou Centre designer Lord Richard Rogers, described the building as “a modern day Machu Picchu.” 

It was (opens in a new window)characterised as “bold and as pure a statement of engineering as could be imagined.” RIBA acclaimed the architects for “the extent of their mastery of their craft by forming the rich spatial composition from simple moves within an organised and repetitive system.”

Pictured: Interior and exterior of UTEC. Credit: (opens in a new window)Iwan Baan

UTEC (University of Technology and Engineering in English) is a new faculty for the 50-year old engineering university. It was founded to encourage social mobility by enabling young Peruvians to gain engineering qualifications.

"This is architecture as geology and geography," UCD graduate Yvonne Farrell (opens in a new window)told CNN. "It's an artificial cliff face hollowed out as if from solid concrete. It's a challenging building. Its beauty isn't skin deep. It's not a pretty package with a fancy ribbon around it. It's a framework for life that shakes beauty up a little."

The pair held the Kenzo Tange chair at (opens in a new window)Harvard Graduate School of Design in 2010 and Louis Kahn chair at (opens in a new window)Yale in 2011. They are also Fellows of the (opens in a new window)Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland and International Honorary Fellows of RIBA.

This was the inaugural award of the RIBA International Prize. Zaha Hadid Architects and David Chipperfield Architects were also nominated for the prize.

Two other firms belonging to UCD graduates have been named as RIBA award winners in recent years. 

In 2010, (opens in a new window)O’Donnell & Tuomey Architects won the International Award for their Timberyard Social Housing Project in Dublin. John Tuomey and Sheila O’Donnell met while studying in UCD. 

In 2009, fellow UCD graduate Shay Cleary’s (opens in a new window)firm received the same award for the (opens in a new window)Alto Vetro Tower residential building in Dublin’s Grand Canal Dock.

(opens in a new window)RIBA is a professional body for architects. It was founded in 1834 for the “general advancement of Civil Architecture, and for promoting and facilitating the acquirement of the knowledge of the various arts and sciences connected therewith.”

By: Jonny Baxter, digital journalist, UCD University Relations

UCD School of Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Planning & Environmental Policy

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