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Woman Architect of the Year shortlist: Yvonne Farrell & Shelley McNamara

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Directors of Grafton Architects, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara for the 2014 AJ Women in Architecture Awards

Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara founded Dublin-based Grafton Architects in 1978. It has been a significant year for Grafton: its scheme for the University of Limerick was shortlisted for the Stirling Prize and the practice picked up its first UK project, seeing off a strong shortlist to win the job to design a flagship new building for Kingston University. Grafton was also shortlisted in the contest to design a new £90 million Global Centre for Social Sciences for the London School of Economics.

Technology building, UTEC, Peru

Technology building, UTEC, Peru

Why did you choose architecture? There were a number of reasons: a combination of instinct and fascinations with art, culture and people.

What is your design ethos? The older we get, the more we are convinced of the importance of architecture, both for itself and for the possibilities of benefiting society. We love architecture’s synthesis of being an art form that works and that has a job to do. We love architecture’s ambition to span both need - basic human requirements - and meaning; to be useful and be more than that. We feel it is important to remember that architecture is commissioned. We are a profession that needs to listen, to hear what is being said, to what is un-said, and to invent. Each project is significant and each project deserves 100 per cent focus. What our profession does really matters.

Which architects inspire you? Eileen Gray, Flora Ruchat-Roncati, Lina Bo Bardi, Anna Heringer, Carme Pinos and Zaha Hadid.

What is your advice to aspiring female architects? Love architecture. Nurture your talents. Find ways to create things. Visit buildings. Learn from them. Research. Do competitions. Teach, read, talk and listen. Find trustworthy friends. Help each other through thick and thin. Practice. Find good clients. Keep going. Set up a structure that suits you and the way you think. Let your voice be heard.

Why do you think women leave the profession? We are constantly amazed that so many really talented female architecture students, whom we come across while teaching, somehow vanish from the profession after university. It is a real loss. Maybe it is because if the balance of worth shifts from meaning to drudgery and if the experience of working is one of exclusion and not inclusion, then women make other choices.

The Stirling Prize-shortlisted University of Limerick

The Stirling Prize-shortlisted University of Limerick


Place of study University College Dublin

Current projects School of Economics, UT1 Capitol University in Toulouse, France; Universidad de Ingenieria y Tecnologia, Lima, Peru

Clients UT1 Capitol University, Toulouse; UTEC, Peru


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