ARCHITECT CHASING THE TREE : YVONNE FARRELL AND SHELLEY MCNAMARA14 December 2020
Humanist and Honest Architecture: Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara
Dublin-based Grafton Architects is an architectural office established in 1978 at Dublin, aims to create the most suitable designs that will work with the texture of the city. Its co-founders, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara work with both modern and contemporary designs, and prioritize creating depth, deriving from the knowledge and experience they’ve gained over the years.
Grafton Architects was awarded 2020 RIBA Royal Gold Medal late last year. The architectural office also received the World Building of the Year Award in 2008 for Universita Luigi Bocconi (Milan, Italy), along with RIBA in 2008 for University Campus UTEC Lima in Peru; and nominated Stirling Prize for University of Limerick Medical School, Student Residences, Piazza and Pergola. Other prominent projects include: North King Street Housing (Dublin, Ireland 2000); Ireland City Institute, University College Dublin (Dublin, Ireland 2002); Loreta Community School (Milford, Ireland 2006); Offices for the Department of Finance (Dublin, Ireland 2009) and Limerick University School of Medicine (Limerick, Ireland 2012).
Yvonne Farrell (1951) and Shelley McNamara (1952) met while they were students at University College Dublin (UCD) School of Architecture. In school, they had the chance to work with architectures who challenged the school’s thought and culture of the institute. After they graduated in 1976, they continued to educate students . “Teaching for us has always been a parallel reality,” Farrell points out, “And it’s a way of trying to distill our experience and gift it to other generations coming along so that they actually play a role in the growing of that culture.”
Farrell’s and McNamara’s design make as much use of daylight as possible. They let the natural light enter and enliven the interior. Entering from roof windows or upper floor windows, waves of light in their designs create a bridge between inside and outside add a touch of warmth and appeal to the interior and allow people to move around easily.
Farrell and McNamara have mastered the art of maintaining the human scale and creating cozy atmospheres in large buildings. For Solstice Arts Center (Navan, Ireland 2007), they’ve worked to create a contoured theater floor, which aims a sense of nearness between audience and performers. Open spaces, windows, glass curtain walls and exposed ceilings were placed generously and allow natural light to enter though a passage of rooms, creating impressions of light in large and small spaces.