Shelley McNamara, along with Yvonne Farrell, co-founded Grafton Architects in 1978 having graduated from University College Dublin in 1974. She is a Fellow of the RIAI, International Honorary Fellow of the RIBA and elected member of Aosdána, the eminent Irish Art organisation.
Teaching at the School of Architecture at University College Dublin from 1976 to 2002, she was appointed Adjunct Professor at UCD in 2015. She has been a Visiting Professor at EPFL, Lausanne in 2010 – 2011. Shelley held the Kenzo Tange Chair at GSD Harvard in 2010 and the Louis Kahn chair at Yale in the Autumn of 2011. Currently, she is a Professor at the Accademia di Archittettura, Mendrisio, Switzerland.
In 2018, Shelley, along with Yvonne Farrell, was Curator of the Venice Architecture Biennale. Their manifesto: Freespace was the title of the Biennale.
Grafton Architects have participated in numerous exhibitions including : the Sensing Spaces Exhibition in 2014 in the Royal Academy in London; a Pavilion for the 2014 Tercentenary of the City of Barcelona; ‘the Ogham Wall’ installation in 2015 in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
The practice has won numerous awards for their work. In 2016, Grafton Architects were honoured by being awarded the inaugural RIBA International Prize for the Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología (UTEC) in Lima, Peru.
In 2019 Shelley McNamara, along with Yvonne Farrell was awarded an honorary degree from NUI Galway and from Trinity College Dublin. Shelley and Yvonne were commended for their contribution to Irish society.
In 2019, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) today awarded the RIAI James Gandon Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Architecture to Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell. 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.
The Royal Gold Medal is given to a person or group of people who have had a significant influence “either directly or indirectly on the advancement of architecture”.
Shelley and Yvonne were selected as the 2020 Pritzker Prize Laureates, the award that is known internationally as architecture’s highest honour.
Portrait photo by Morley von Sternberg