Grafton Architects on the move

Yvonne Farrell & Shelley McNamara Photo Alice Clancy


Ellen Rowley tracks the critical development of Grafton Architects from their beginnings on Dublin’s Grafton Street to their journey to Venice

Try as we may to transcend the cult of celebrity, architecture continues to be protagonist driven. Simply, or complexly, Grafton Architects with McNamara and Farrell at the helm of their practice are relevant. Thus, the arrival of Phaidon’s chunky monograph, Grafton Architects by Robert McCarter is timely, and unsurprising. Its publication dovetails seamlessly with the final weeks of the 16th Venice Biennale for Architecture, which McNamara and Farrell have curated. Remarkably momentous for Irish architecture, the curating of this, the most culturally significant and internationally rich event on contemporary architecture’s calendar, has shot the Irish duo into the architectural stratosphere. Following a deliberately nebulous theme of ‘Free Space’ – meaning that intangible ‘free’ thing that true design brings to us all – the curators have made a series of exhibitions comprising national pavilions and sub-curated displays, on a mind-boggling scale. The result seems to be mixed. Critics are fairly unimpressed, with one calling it an exercise in ‘subjective taste-making’. Perhaps Farrell and McNamara’s emerging manifesto of generosity is just too honest-to-God and instinctive, too real and irrational at the same time, for the international architectural intelligentsia

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