Architectural Conversations: Grafton Architects & Kathleen James-Chakraborty

Architectural Conversations: Grafton Architects & Kathleen James-Chakraborty
Tuesday, September 22, 2020

12:00–1:30 PM CDT / 6:00–7:30 PM IST

Free for SAH members; $20 non-members
This program will be recorded and video will be available after the event.
If you need assistance registering, please call 312-573-1365.


SAH is pleased to present Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell, co-founders of Grafton Architects, winners of the 2020 RIBA Gold Medal and 2020 Pritzker Prize Laureates, in conversation with Kathleen James-Chakraborty. Farrell and McNamara will address how they have worked for more than three decades in relationship to the built fabric of the city of Dublin, as well as the approach their firm has taken when working elsewhere, including places such as Lima, Peru, with which they had previously been unfamiliar. Other topics to be raised include their concept of free space, which was at the heart of their curatorship of the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, and, in particular, how it relates to the past as well as the future of architecture. Their attentiveness to sustainability, as displayed in recent work at Kingston University and the University of Toulouse, and the emphasis on collaboration that spurred them to accept the RIBA Gold Medal on behalf of the entire practice, rather than as individuals, will be discussed as well. 


Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell standing together and smiling.
Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara co-founded Grafton Architects in 1978 having graduated from University College Dublin in 1974. They are Fellows of the RIAI, International Honorary Fellows of the RIBA and elected members of Aosdána, the eminent Irish Art organisation.

Teaching at the School of Architecture at University College Dublin from 1976 to 2002, they were appointed adjunct professors at UCD in 2015. They were visiting professors at EPFL, Lausanne from 2010–2011. They held the Kenzo Tange Chair at GSD Harvard in 2010 and the Louis Kahn chair at Yale in the Autumn of 2011. Currently, they are professors at the Accademia di Archittettura, Mendrisio, Switzerland.

In 2018, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara were the curators of the Venice Architecture Biennale. Their manifesto Freespace doubled as the title of the Biennale. Grafton Architects have participated in numerous other exhibitions including the Sensing Spaces Exhibition in 2014 at the Royal Academy in London; a Pavilion for the 2014 Tercentenary of the City of Barcelona; and ‘the Ogham Wall’  installation in  2015 at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

Current Grafton projects include The Marshall Institute, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, for the London School of Economics; City Library Parnell Square Dublin with Shaffrey Architects; Headquarters for Electricity Supply Board (ESB) with OMP architects in Dublin; all won by international competition. Recently completed projects include The Town House Building, Kingston University London; The School of Economics for the University of Toulouse 1 Capitol; Institut Mines Télécom University Building, Paris Saclay.

The practice has won numerous awards for their work, including the Jane Drew Prize awarded to Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara in 2015; the inaugural RIBA International Prize for the Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología (UTEC) in Lima, Peru, in 2016 and the University of Virginia and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello Architecture Medal in 2017. In 2019, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) awarded the RIAI James Gandon Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Architecture to Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara. The Gandon Medal is the highest personal award given to an architect in Ireland. The practice was recently presented with the 2020 RIBA Royal Gold Medal in London. Shelley and Yvonne have been selected as the prestigious 2020 Pritzker Prize Laureates.

Photo credit: Ste Murray


Kathleen James-Chakraborty smiling and wearing a green scarf.
Kathleen James-Chakraborty is professor of art history at University College Dublin. From 2017–20 she served as a board member of the Society of Architectural Historians. Her books include Architecture since 1400 (Minnesota, 2014) and Modernism as Memory: Building Identity in the Federal Republic of Germany (Minnesota, 2018).

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for its operating support.
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