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Lisdoonvarna’s Shelley McNamara honoured alongside Yvonne Farrell with Pritzker Prize

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Lisdoonvarna architect, Shelley McNamara has won the coveted Pritzker Prize alongside Yvonne Farrell.

They are the first Irish citizens to win the internationally recognised distinction which is viewed as the architecture equivalent to the Nobel Prize. The duo were announced as the 2020 laureates of the award last March.

Shelley was reminded of “the empty stage of a Samuel Beckett play” when accepting the prize without an audience at the Long Room of Trinity College Library.

“But of course, we are not alone. We are in a space which holds time, and knowledge, and treasures of the mind. We can feel the presences of all the great people who passed through this great space. We chose this room so that we could celebrate the power of architecture here in our own city. So that we would feel part of a bigger order, which of course is one of the functions of architecture.”

Founders of Grafton Architects in 1978, Shelley and Yvonne first met at university in 1974. They will become become the 47th and 48th Pritzker laureates. They are also the fourth and fifth women to claim the award in its 42 year history.

President Michael D. Higgins congratulated the duo in an online video describing the honour as “a wonderful achievement”. He said the naming of Farrell and McNamara as Laureates “accorded the highest accolade within your profession”.

When named 2020 laureates earlier this year, the Dublin based architects were praised for their “unceasing commitment to excellence in architecture, their responsible attitude toward the environment, their ability to be cosmopolitan while embracing the uniqueness of each place in which they work” as well as their “belief in collaboration” and their “generosity towards their colleagues”.

Tom Pritzker, chairman of The Hyatt Foundation, which sponsors the award, said the pair had “demonstrated that friendship, socialization and partnership are the wellspring for the humane ideals to which their built work is dedicated.”

Grafton Architects were the recipients of the 2012 Venice Biennale silver lion award with Ms Farrell and Ms McNamara going to curate the 2018 Venice Biennale. In 2019, they were awarded the RIAI James Gandon medal for lifetime achievement in architecture and earlier this year they received the 2020 Royal Gold Medal, the UK’s highest honour for architecture.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, and A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to -

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