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Irish architects Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara won 2020 Pritzker Prize

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In this May 23, 2018 file photo, Biennale International Architecture exhibition curators Yvonne Farrell, left, and Shelley McNamara appear in Venice, Italy.
In this May 23, 2018 file photo, Biennale International Architecture exhibition curators Yvonne Farrell, left, and Shelley McNamara appear in Venice, Italy.   -   Copyright  Antonio Calanni / AP
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Considered the highest honour in architecture, Irish Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara were awarded the 2020 Pritzker Architecture Prize on Tuesday.

The jury rewarded the duo for "consistent service to humanity as evidenced by a body of built work,” and for leading the way for women in a male-dominated profession.

Pioneers in a field that has traditionally been and still is a male-dominated profession, they are also beacons to others as they forge their exemplary professional path.
Tom Pritzker
Chairman of the Hyatt Foundation which sponsors the prize

The pair, who co-founded their Dublin-based Grafton Architects in 1978, is known for numerous educational buildings, housing and cultural and civic institutions.

Their collaboration dates back to 1969, when they met as architecture students at the School of Architecture at University College Dublin (UCD). They were then offered the opportunity to teach there.

They have collaborated in many projects in their home country, but their work can also be found in Italy, France or Peru.

Scientists of space

Interviewed on the phone from Dublin, McNamara told AP: “We say sometimes that we’re like scientists of space.”

"What's interesting is we always feel like we’re starting. With architecture, you always feel like you get younger as you get older. You’re continually being challenged and continually challenging yourself. You never sit back and say ‘OK, I’ve done that," she added.

The jury singled out the Urban Institute of Ireland, a building they imagined in 2002. The jury particularly laid emphasis on the fact that they "have achieved a human scale through the composition of spaces and volumes of different sizes. The dialogues they create between buildings and surroundings demonstrate a new appreciation of both their works and place."

Ros Kavanagh
Urban Institute of Ireland in Dublin, 2002Ros Kavanagh

In a manifesto written for the Venice Biennale in 2018, Farrell and McNamara explained that they were aiming at "going beyond the visual, emphasising the role of architecture in the choreography of daily life."

We see the earth as Client; this brings with it long-lasting responsibilities. Architecture is the play of light, sun, shade, moon, air, wind, gravity in ways that reveal the mysteries of the world.
Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara
Architects

The Pritzker Architecture Prize grants its winner $100,000 and a bronze medallion.

Among its previous winners stand architects Jean Nouvel, Renzo Piano, Franck Gehry and fellow female laureate Zaha Hadid in 2004.