Grafton Architects chosen to curate Venice Architecture Biennale

Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara ‘delighted to be gifted opportunity’, a significant honour and accolade for Grafton, and for Ireland

Yvonne Farrell and Shelly McNamara, of Grafton Architects, at their office in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects – the Dublin-based practice which recently won the RIBA International Prize – have been named as curators of the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, a significant honour and accolade for Grafton, and for Ireland.

“Shelley and myself and our team are really honoured to have been asked to take on such a responsibility,” Ms Farrell said. “And we’re delighted that Ireland has been gifted this opportunity. Now we begin the process.”

The Biennale is a vast undertaking and runs from May through to November 2018. It will be another challenge for an already busy practice. Asked how they will cope with the additional pressure, Ms Farrell remarked: “We’re thinking of inventing the 29-hour day.”

Grafton Architects represented Ireland at the 2012 Venice Architectural Biennale with an ambitious exhibition centred on two projects: Paulo Mendes da Rocha's Serra Dourade Stadium in Goiânia, Brazil, and their own research and plans for a new university campus in Lima, Peru. Part of that campus, the engineering department UTEC, which has since been completed, won them the RIBA prize in November 2016.


Impressive portfolio

Ms Farrell and Ms McNamara, both graduates of UCD, established Grafton in 1978. Since then they have built up an extensive and impressive portfolio, nationally and internationally.

Their Universita Luigi Bocconi building in Milan won the World Building of the Year Award in 2008 and is regarded as a highly significant achievement. They are currently engaged in major projects in Dublin, London and Toulouse. How people relate to, use and experience spaces and buildings has always been at the heart of their approach to design.

“We believe so much in what we do, and architecture is so important in people’s lives that we are really thrilled to have a chance to present, explain and make it meaningful to the greatest possible audience,” Ms Farrell said.

Golden age

Referring to what is something of a golden age for Irish architecture, she observed: “Irish architects are so well trained now.” They are, she said, both practical and idealistic. “Their feet remain firmly on the ground, but their heads are in the stars.”

The Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Heather Humphreys said: "Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara have a truly significant reputation and their selection as curators for the 2018 Venice Biennale reflects how highly they are regarded globally. It is a huge honour for Ireland that the 2018 Venice Biennale will be curated by such highly regarded Irish architects, who previously won the Silver Lion at the Venice Biennale in 2012 for their presentation of their design of the UTEC University campus in Lima, Peru."