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RIBA names Farrell and McNamara as 2020 Royal Gold Medal winner

Wednesday, 19 February, 2020

Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, the two founders of Grafton Architects

Architectural firm Grafton Architects headed by UCD graduates Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara has won the (opens in a new window)2020 RIBA Royal Gold Medal, the UK’s highest honour for architecture.

Presented in recognition of a lifetime’s work, the Royal Gold Medal is approved personally by Her Majesty The Queen and is given to a person or group of people who have had a significant influence 'either directly or indirectly on the advancement of architecture'.

The renowned Irish architects are the only female partnership to have won the prestigious award in its 171-year-history.

Ms Farrell and Ms McNamara are both University College Dublin graduates and former faculty and adjunct professors at the UCD School of Architecture.

President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, Professor Alan Jones, said:  “Grafton Architects are impressive role models. Their work, philosophy and ambition are of profound importance, not just in their home country and the UK but across the globe.

“They show us all how architecture, practised humbly and humanely, can make the world a better place,” he added.

The pair co-founded Grafton Architects, which is currently working on projects including the new Marshall Building at the (opens in a new window)London School of Economics and the School of Economics at the University Toulouse 1 Capitole.

Among the practice’s noted works are the Universita Luigi Bocconi in Milan which won the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland’s 2008 prize for world building of the year, the University of Limerick Medical School, which was shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2013, and the ‘vertical campus’ building for Lima’s specialist engineering university (UTEC) in Peru which scooped the inaugural RIBA International Prize in 2016.

Also, in 2012, their practice was awarded the Silver Lion for most promising practice at the Venice Architecture Biennale. The pair were welcomed back to the 124-year-old exhibition as curators in 2018.


This is the second time that architecture graduates from UCD have won a RIBA Royal Gold Medal. In 2015, Irish architects Sheila O'Donnell and John Tuomey, who were professors at the UCD School of Architecture at the time, received the honour.

The Royal Gold Medal was presented to Grafton Architects at a special ceremony at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) on 13 February 2020.

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