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Posted 24 September 2014

RIBA awards Royal Gold Medal to Sheila O'Donnell and John Tuomey

Irish architects Sheila O'Donnell and John Tuomey, who are both graduates and staff of the UCD School of Architecture, University College Dublin, have been named as the 2015 recipients of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Royal Gold Medal, the world's most prestigious architecture award. Sheila is a Studio Lecturer at the UCD School of Architecture and John is Professor of Architectural Design.

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

London School of Economics Saw Swee Hock Students' Centre
London School of Economics Saw Swee Hock Students' Centre (Photo credits: Image left - Alex Bland /; Images bottom centre, bottom right: Dennis Gilbert)

In a statement the RIBA described Sheila O'Donnell and John Tuomey as “a tour de force in contemporary Irish and British architecture”.

The husband and wife team co-founded their practice O'Donnell + Tuomey in Dublin in 1988. Previously they had worked together for internationally renowned architects Stirling Wilford Associates and Colquhoun & Miller in London.

Lewis Glucksman Gallery
Lewis Glucksman Gallery (Image top right credit: Alice Clancy)

In the early 1990s, O'Donnell and Tuomey were part of the 'Group 91 Architects' group whose collective skill in masterplanning spearheaded the regeneration of Dublin's neglected Temple Bar. It was the pair's first permanent building, the Irish Film Institute (1991) that brought them profile and acclaim for its dynamic contribution to the revitalised Dublin quarter.

Their early work, from a private home in Navan to schools, public housing and community buildings, provided the canvas for them to experiment and evolve their unconventional creative approach and celebrated style. More recent projects include the modest but brilliant Photographers' Gallery in Soho and the exceptional 2014 RIBA Stirling Prize-shortlisted Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at the London School of Economics.

Lyric Theatre
Lyric Theatre (Images top right and bottom right credit: Dennis Gilbert)

Previous recipients of the Royal Gold Medal, which has been awarded since 1848, include Frank Gehry (2000), Sir Norman Foster (1983), Frank Lloyd Wright (1941) and Sir George Gilbert Scott (1859).

“We're humbled to find ourselves in such a company of heroes, architects whose work we have studied and from whose example we continue to learn. We believe in the social value and the poetic purpose of architecture and the gold medal encourages us to prevail in this most privileged and complicated career," said Sheila O'Donnell and John Tuomey.

An Gael�ras Irish Language Arts and Cultural Centre
An Gael�ras Irish Language Arts and Cultural Centre (Photo credits: Dennis Gilbert)

RIBA President Stephen Hodder said: "O'Donnell + Tuomey's work is always inventive- striking yet so well considered, particular to its place and brief, beautifully crafted -  and ever developing. It is an absolute joy and inspiration to hear them describe their work, and always a delight to experience one of their buildings. Sheila and John are at the vanguard of contemporary Irish architecture and I am delighted they are to receive this lifetime honour."

O'Donnell + Tuomey have been shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize a record five times, in 1999 for Ranelagh Multi-Denominational School (Dublin, Ireland), in 2005 for the Lewis Glucksman Gallery (Cork, Ireland), in 2011 for An Gaeláras Irish Language Arts and Cultural Centre (Derry, Northern Ireland), in 2012 for Lyric Theatre (Belfast, Northern Ireland), and in 2014 for the London School of Economics Saw Swee Hock Students' Centre (London, UK).  

Ranelagh Multi-Denominational School (Photo credits: Alice Clancu)
Ranelagh Multi-Denominational School (Photo credits: Alice Clancu)

They have exhibited three times at the Venice Architecture Biennale and are both alumni of the UCD School of Architecture, University College Dublin, where they continue to teach and inspire the next generation of architects.  They will be presented with the 2015 Royal Gold Medal at a special event at the RIBA, London on 3 February 2015.


(Produced by UCD University Relations)


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