Amazons of architecture lifestyle
We’re taking a look at the principles governing the work of Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, founding partners of Grafton Architects and laureates of the 2020 Pritzker Architecture Prize. It’s the highest honour in architecture, an industry which shapes our surroundings and the way we live and interact with others.
Generosity, reflection and dedication
Generosity, reflection and dedication could be mission statements from just yesterday. They seem very apt for this period of uncertainty we’re experiencing due to the pandemic, yet this awareness has defined their work since their beginnings in Dublin in 1978, where they continue to spread their reputation worldwide.
Farrell and McNamara curated the 2018 Venice Biennale of Architecture, and to help explain their vision, they referenced a Greek proverb: “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in”.
For them, architecture is the roots. A refuge for our bodies and the projection of how our lives unfold. The quality of public and private spaces, territory and the urban and rural landscape also serve as the main purposes of architecture. At least for theirs, which is focused on reflection, the idea of connections between people, interaction with our surroundings and respecting the natural environment.
Their recent work includes places of learning and study, universities and schools:
Luigi Bocconi, in Milán, Italia
UTEC Lima campus, in Perú
Toulouse School of Economics in Francia
Kingston University in London, Town House, GB
They have just been awarded a project to build the Anthony Timberlands Center for Design and Materials Innovation, at the University of Arkansas in the USA.
Their initial approach for education-related projects is to conduct an extensive investigation on the idiosyncrasies of the site to adapt, renew and apply them to construction. But there are significant common threads in their interior design:
Bringing the outside in, and vice versa. Touches of nature in every space. Concrete structures mixed with local stone. Providing terraces, open paths and rooftop gardens. Monumentality in areas intended for movement and interactions. Artisan finishes.
“We tend to look beyond the visual aspect. We’re interested in the choreography of everyday life. We believe everyone is entitled to benefit from architecture. The role of architecture is to provide a refuge for our bodies, but also to lift our spirits”.
Farrell y McNamara: “We’re interested in the choreography of everyday life because we belive everyone is entitled to benefit from architecture”
A surprising focus, since we are used to grandiose words and points of view which supposedly radically transform the way we see architecture and the world. Yet their message is significant during a period where time stands still, seeking truth in the roots, simplicity and the generosity of sharing.
This is the very meaning of women’s architecture. Amazons of architecture who charge into battle equipped with knowledge, composure and quality to fight for a fair position and to improve our surroundings using architecture and design.
There are plenty of Amazons of architecture, but the greatest exponents – or at least the most famous – are the female Pritzker laureates. In 2004, Zaha Hadid alone; in 2010 the studio Sanaa, founded by a woman, Kazuyo Sejima, and a man, Ryue Nishizawa; and in 2017, RCR, a firm composed of Carme Pigem, Ramon Vilalta and Rafael Aranda. This year is the first time that the Pritzker Architecture Prize has recognised an all-female design firm since its launch in 1979.
Is there a common female thread in architecture?
Martha Thorne, dean of the School of Architecture & Design at IE University and Executive Director of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, shares her thoughts: “Women are not a minority in the world. But they are a minority in architecture. Bit by bit, we are battling to gain greater visibility and recognition. There is a lot of potential which hasn’t been fully exploited”, she explains to Porcelanosa Lifestyle.
In the architecture industry, there is a major group of female architects, urban planners and designers leading ‘Voices for Women’. These include: Jeanne Gang, Odile Decq, Farshid Moussavi, Martha Thorne, Eva Franch i Gilabert and Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara: “This is not just a manifesto – words aren’t enough. We are proving our progress with actions, initiatives and positive results. There’s no rush, just determination and deep-rooted human values”, they explain in their manifesto.
Martha Thorne: “Women are still a minority in the field of architecture, but we are gradually getting more visibility and recognition”
In the design industry there is also “Women in Office Design”, a British association of female design professionals. This year, it reached Spain, led by Gracia Cardona and Soledat Berbegal: “Women from the media, from business, from creative design – we all have a well-defined mission: people’s welfare” explain Gracia Cardona – Director of Diario Design – and Soledat Berbegal – Director of Actiu – for Lifestyle.
But hasn’t it been that way since the dawn of time? The traditional female duty of caring for others, a broad vision of creativity from the home, respecting traditions but also the advancement of knowledge, teaching and science. There was a time when this position was rejected, but in recent years it has become an important value and a cultural, economic and social advantage.
- 1 Generosity, reflection and dedication
- 2 Is there a common female thread in architecture?