UCD alumni celebrate Grafton Architects at their Royal Gold Medal Lecture

Dublin-based Grafton Architects, co-founded by UCD alumni Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, was named the 2020 recipient of the RIBA Royal Gold Medal. This follows the award of the medal to UCD alumni and Professors (Emeritus) Sheila O’Donnell and John Tuomey in 2015.

On Wednesday 12 February 2020, the evening before the medal presentation, Shelley and Yvonne delivered a public lecture at the Royal Institute of British Architects to mark the occasion. Hugh Campbell, Dean of Architecture at the UCD School of Architecture, Planning, and Environmental Policy, was asked to provide an introduction and moderate the post-lecture audience Q&A session.

UCD was able to secure a block of seats at the event, and 70 UCD alumni were in attendance to celebrate the achievements of Yvonne, Shelley, and the numerous alumni who have contributed to the work of Grafton Architects since its establishment in 1978.

[Photo: © nickstrugnell.com]



The program was live-streamed and is available for viewing here:




Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell graduated from UCD in 1974 and subsequently taught there over many years. More recently, they have served as Adjunct Professors. In 2015, they received UCD Alumni Awards and in 2019, they were awarded the Ulysses Medal, UCD’s highest honour. They are Professors at Mendrisio Academy of Architecture and have held visiting posts at Yale and Harvard. Having previously exhibited at the Venice Biennale on a number of occasions, they served as curators for the 2018 exhibition, Freespace. Grafton Architects projects have won numerous awards and honours including the RIBA International Prize in 2016 for the UTEC campus in Lima, Peru and the World Building of the Year Award for the Bocconi University building in 2008. They have been awarded the RIAI Gold Medal, the RIAI Gandon Medal for Lifetime Achievement in Architecture, and honorary doctorates by NUI Galway and Trinity College Dublin. Shelley and Yvonne are also members of Aosdána and were appointed Cultural Ambassadors for Ireland in 2019.


On hearing the news that they will receive the Royal Gold Medal in 2020, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara said:

“Like architects around the world, everyone in Grafton Architects works hard to give each project the attention needed to hopefully enrich people’s lives. For us, architecture is an optimistic profession, with the opportunity to anticipate future realities. It is of the highest cultural importance because it is the built enclosure of human lives. It translates people’s needs and dreams into built form, into the silent language of space. We share this honour with all our clients, design teams, contractors and colleagues – past and current – working together, we translate ideas into reality.”

Read RIBA’s full press release here.



Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara received a UCD Alumni Award in 2015 for their exceptional service to the field of architecture.
The duo also received UCD’s highest honour, the Ulysses Medal, in 2018 for their outstanding global contribution.