Two women architects from Dublin, Ireland have been named as the winners of the 2020 Pritzker Prize, the highest honour awarded in global architecture.

Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, who founded their architectural practice, Grafton Architects more than 40 years ago, are among a handful of women architects who have won the annual lifetime achievement award, which is considered equivalent to a Nobel in the architecture world. Previous winners include Zaha Hadid (2004), Kazuyo Sejima of SANAA (2010), and Carme Pigem of RCR Arquitectes (2017).

Farrell and McNamara won the prestigious honour for the integrity in their approach to their buildings as well as their practice, their belief in collaboration, their generosity towards their colleagues, their commitment to excellence in architecture, and their responsible attitude to the environment, among other reasons, as the jury citation revealed.

Farrell and McNamara are the 47th and 48th Laureates of the Pritzker Prize, and the first two recipients from Ireland. The architects are also well-respected educators, having taught at University College Dublin, Yale University, the Harvard Graduate School of Design, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, and Accademia d’Archittettura in Mendrisio, Switzerland.

Since 1978, the year they established their practice, the Irish duo have completed several projects in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Italy and Peru.

Significant projects in Ireland include North King Street Housing (Dublin, 2000); Urban Institute of Ireland, University College Dublin (Dublin, 2002); Solstice Arts Centre (Navan, 2007); Loreto Community School (Milford, 2006); Offices for the Department of Finance (Dublin, 2009); and Medical School, University of Limerick (Limerick, 2012).

Their first international commission, Universita Luigi Bocconi in Milan (Milan, Italy 2008) won them the World Building of the Year Award at the 2008 inaugural World Architectural Festival in Barcelona. Since then, Farrell and McNamara have completed University Campus UTEC Lima (Lima, Peru 2015), which was awarded the inaugural RIBA International Prize 2016 by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA); Institut Mines Télécom (Paris, France 2019) and Université Toulouse 1 Capitole, School of Economics (Toulouse, France 2019).

Grafton Architects was the recipient of the 2012 Biennale di Venezia Silver Lion Award for the exhibition, Architecture as New Geography. Farrell and McNamara also co-curated the 2018 Venice Biennale with the theme 'Freespace'.

Additionally, these accomplished architects are the recipients of the RIAI James Gandon Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Architecture by the RIAI in 2019, and the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 2020.

“The collaboration between Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara represents a veritable interconnectedness between equal counterparts. 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,” read the Pritzker statement.

Farrell describes architecture ‘as one of the most complex and important cultural activities on the planet’.

“To be an architect is an enormous privilege. To win this prize is a wonderful endorsement of our belief in architecture. Thank you for this great honour.”

McNamara states, “Architecture is a framework for human life. It anchors us and connects us to the world in a way which possibly no other space-making discipline can.”