Architecture

Grafton Architects' concrete connoisseurs win 2020 Pritzker Prize

Grafton Architects' concrete c...
University Campus UTEC Lima's criss-crossing forms create shaded nooks for students to relax
University Campus UTEC Lima's criss-crossing forms create shaded nooks for students to relax
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University Campus UTEC Lima was originally conceived as a concrete cliff
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University Campus UTEC Lima was originally conceived as a concrete cliff
University Campus UTEC Lima's criss-crossing forms create shaded nooks for students to relax
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University Campus UTEC Lima's criss-crossing forms create shaded nooks for students to relax
University Campus UTEC Lima was declared the winner of the inaugural RIBA International Prize
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University Campus UTEC Lima was declared the winner of the inaugural RIBA International Prize
University Campus UTEC Lima was completed in 2015
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University Campus UTEC Lima was completed in 2015
The Urban Institute of Ireland was completed in 2002 on a tight budget and short timeframe
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The Urban Institute of Ireland was completed in 2002 on a tight budget and short timeframe
The Urban Institute of Ireland serves as home to planners, architects, geographers, economists and scientists researching sustainable development
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The Urban Institute of Ireland serves as home to planners, architects, geographers, economists and scientists researching sustainable development
The Urban Institute of Ireland's interior measures 850 sq m (9,150 sq ft)
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The Urban Institute of Ireland's interior measures 850 sq m (9,150 sq ft)
The Institut Mines Télécom is organized around six spaces, five of which are courtyards and one is internal
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The Institut Mines Télécom is organized around six spaces, five of which are courtyards and one is internal
Urban Institute of Ireland is located in Paris, France
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Urban Institute of Ireland is located in Paris, France
Grafton Architects was only given what's been ruefully described as a "rock bottom" budget to work with, but nevertheless managed to produce a new medical school facility, student accommodation and a bus shelter for the University of Limerick, Ireland
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Grafton Architects was only given what's been ruefully described as a "rock bottom" budget to work with, but nevertheless managed to produce a new medical school facility, student accommodation and a bus shelter for the University of Limerick, Ireland
Medical School, University of Limerick was completed in September, 2012, and was a finalist in the RIBA Stirling Prize 2013 shortlist
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Medical School, University of Limerick was completed in September, 2012, and was a finalist in the RIBA Stirling Prize 2013 shortlist
Medical School, University of Limerick is organized around a large central staircase
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Medical School, University of Limerick is organized around a large central staircase
Medical School, University of Limerick features ample natural light within thanks to its generous glazing
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Medical School, University of Limerick features ample natural light within thanks to its generous glazing
Universita Luigi Bocconi was completed in 2008 in Milan
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Universita Luigi Bocconi was completed in 2008 in Milan
Universita Luigi Bocconi's collection of conference halls, lecture theaters, offices, meeting rooms, library and cafe foster a community for the 1,000 professors and students within
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Universita Luigi Bocconi's collection of conference halls, lecture theaters, offices, meeting rooms, library and cafe foster a community for the 1,000 professors and students within
Loreto Community School features a zinc undulating roof that responds to the local typography
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Loreto Community School features a zinc undulating roof that responds to the local typography
Loreto Community School is located in County Donegal, Ireland, and was completed in 2006
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Loreto Community School is located in County Donegal, Ireland, and was completed in 2006
The Offices for the Department of Finance was completed in Dublin, Ireland, in 2008
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The Offices for the Department of Finance was completed in Dublin, Ireland, in 2008
The Offices for the Department of Finance is finished in local limestone and its windows have vents installed below them to help circulate fresh air throughout the building
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The Offices for the Department of Finance is finished in local limestone and its windows have vents installed below them to help circulate fresh air throughout the building
View gallery - 19 images

The annual Pritzker Prize is architecture's most prestigious honor and the list of previous winners include Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry and, more recently, Arata Isozaki and Balkrishna Doshi. The 2020 laureate has now been announced, and it's actually not one person but two: Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Ireland's Grafton Architects.

Farrell and McNamara, born in 1951 and 1952 respectively, met while studying at University College Dublin and on graduating were both offered the opportunity to teach. Though they formed Grafton Architects in 1978 with three others who eventually left the practice, they continued to teach at the university until 2006 and were appointed adjunct professors in 2015.

Forging a recognizable style over the decades, the concrete connoisseurs produce massive buildings but also pay mind to the little details that make life more comfortable for those inside, with a focus on natural light and ventilation, and creating useful interior spaces. Their long teaching experience must have also contributed to their insight in producing educational projects, with many of Grafton's most celebrated works consisting of universities, colleges, and schools.

The Urban Institute of Ireland was completed in 2002 on a tight budget and short timeframe
The Urban Institute of Ireland was completed in 2002 on a tight budget and short timeframe

The University of College Dublin's Urban Institute of Ireland is one highlight. Completed in 2002 to a tight budget and a short timeframe, the building serves as home to planners, architects, geographers, economists, and scientists researching sustainable development.

Its terracotta tiles, brick and granite were chosen to match the material palette of surrounding buildings and it has an interesting patterned facade that, along with skylights, ensures the optimal amount of natural light permeates within. The building also received a grant from Sustainable Energy Ireland and features a degree of energy-efficient design.

University Campus UTEC Lima was declared the winner of the inaugural RIBA International Prize
University Campus UTEC Lima was declared the winner of the inaugural RIBA International Prize

Peru's Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología (UTEC) was designed in collaboration with local firm Shell Arquitectos. It was declared the winner of the inaugural RIBA International Prize and is arguably Grafton's most successful work to date.

The brutalist building was completed in 2015 and is situated on a constrained site between a busy road and a ravine. It's conceived as a concrete cliff, with meeting places positioned near the ground and teaching spaces higher up. Its unusual form creates cosy little study nooks and terraced areas for students to sit in the shade.

Universita Luigi Bocconi was completed in 2008 in Milan
Universita Luigi Bocconi was completed in 2008 in Milan

Completed in 2008 in Milan, Universita Luigi Bocconi also won the World Building of the Year prize that year. The massive stone-clad building can't help but impress with its sheer scale and takes up an entire city block.

Its interior consists of a great hall below ground and offices above, as well as a collection of conference halls, lecture theaters, offices, meeting rooms, library and cafe that are designed to foster a sense of community for the 1,000 professors and students that use it.

"The collaboration between Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara represents a veritable interconnectedness between equal counterparts," says the Pritzker Prize's press release. "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. Farrell and McNamara have mastered proportion to maintain a human scale and achieve intimate environments within tall and vast buildings."

Head to the gallery to see more on these and a selection of other outstanding buildings by Grafton Architects.

Source: Pritzker Prize

View gallery - 19 images
4 comments
ajl12no
A brutalist dystopian nightmare. What a waste of an award.
christopher
No way - YUK! I don't care how challenging it might have been to build, when it looks utterly ghastly, like all of these do, it should never make any award shortlist, let along win one!
mediabeing
Dramatically cold and unwelcoming. I hope the inner spaces are wonderful.
ljaques
I wonder if these awards are fully satire nowadays, ajl12no, like the Nobel awards. The only habitable building was the red brick UII in Ireland, once you get past the crazy shutters.