Pritzker Prize 2020: Irish duo’s win marks rare victory for women in the ‘Nobel of architecture’

Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara have won the 2020 Pritzker Prize, becoming only the fourth and fifth women to claim architecture’s equivalent to the Nobel Prize in its 41-year history.
The Irish pair, co-founders of Dublin-based firm Grafton Architects, were named this year’s laureates in recognition of their “unceasing commitment to excellence,” it was announced Tuesday.
Known for robust creations in concrete and stone, Farrell and McNamara have been prolific in their native Ireland, also working across Europe and elsewhere. The duo has produced dozens of residential, commercial and civic buildings since opening their practice in 1978, including new offices for Ireland’s Department of Finance in Dublin, and the striking Solstice Arts Centre in the nearby town of Navan.
Grafton Architects is best known, however, for educational buildings. The firm was thrust into the global spotlight in 2008, when its design for Bocconi University’s Milan campus — a sturdy shell of stone-clad structures atop subterranean lecture halls carved beneath the city’s surface — was named World Building of the Year at the World Architecture Festival.

A ‘male-dominated profession’
Tuesday’s announcement marks a significant step for an award long criticized for its lack of female representation.

It wasn’t until 2004 that Zaha Hadid became the first woman — and, to date, the only solo female architect — to claim the Pritzker Prize. Kazuyo Sejima became the second woman laureate in 2010, when she was jointly recognized alongside her firm’s co-founder, Ryue Nishizawa. Carme Pigem was named laureate as one of a trio of architects to claim the honor in 2017.

The Award
The annual award, founded by members of the family behind the Hyatt Hotel chain, is modeled on the Nobel Prize. Farrell and McNamara will share a $100,000 grant and be presented with bronze medallions at a ceremony later this year.

“Architecture could be described as one of the most complex and important cultural activities on the planet,” Farrell said in a press statement. “To be an architect is an enormous privilege. To win this prize is a wonderful endorsement of our belief in architecture.”
(Source: CNN, republished for awareness.)

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