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Grafton Architects win the 2020 Royal Gold Medal

royal gold medal 2020

On the 13th of February 2020, Dublin based practice Grafton Architects celebrated their Royal Gold Medal in style with a RIBA Gold Medal dinner.  

Grafton Architects has now been named the 2020 recipient of the Royal Gold Medal. The medal is approved by Her Majesty The Queen personally and is given to a group of people or individual person who had an influence “either directly or indirectly on the advancement of architecture”.   

The dinner took place at RIBA itself in Portland Place, Marylebone, London at 7pm last Thursday evening. The night before the luxurious celebratory dinner, The Royal Gold Medal 2020 Lecture took place at Jarvis Hall on the 12th of February. The lecture was also streamed live and could be watched from anywhere in the world. Not only was this a great way for Grafton Architects to celebrate, but from every ticket sold, RIBA donated £50 directly to the RIBA Student Support Fund, helping students who need financial support the most.  


“Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara co-founded Dublin-based Grafton Architects in 1978, and work alongside directors Gerard Carty and Philippe O’Sullivan, who joined the practice in 1992. With an impressive portfolio of projects, the people-centred practice has achieved global recognition – most notably for its exemplary education buildings, many of which were commissioned following international competitions.” (1) 

In 2013 Grafton Architects’ University of Limerick Medical School was shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize for the UK’s best building. Following this, they won the inaugural RIBA International Prize for their bold new “vertical campus” building for Lima’s specialist engineering university (UTEC) in Peru in 2016.  

Medical-School-Limerick-Unversity-West-Facade-LimestoneWest Facade of Medical School, Limerick University / Grafton Architects

Grafton Architects are currently working on a number of exciting upcoming projects such as; Town House for Kingston University in London;  Marshall Building for the London School of Economics (LSE) ; the School of Economics for the University Toulouse 1 Capitole; the City Library & Parnell Square Cultural Quarter project in Dublin (with Shaffery Architects); Institute Mines Telecom University Building in Paris Saclay; and the new HQ for the Electricity Supply Board in Dublin, with O’Mahony Pike architects; all won by international competition. (1)  

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. 

The news that Grafton Architects are to receive the RIBA 2020 Royal Gold Medal makes this a very special and happy moment in our lives. A sincere ‘Thank you’ to all those involved in making it possible!” 


Here’s just a few of the previous winners over the years, but the full list goes back to 1994 which you can find here.   

  • 2019 – Sir Nicholas Grimshaw 
  • 2018 – Neave Brown 
  • 2017 – Paulo Mendes Da Rocha 
  • 2016 – Zaha Hadid 
  • 2015 – O’Donnell & Tuomey 

We would like to congratulation Grafton Architects on their amazing achievement of the RIBA 2020 Royal Gold Medal and wish them the best of luck with their upcoming projects.  


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(1) RIBA  – Royal Gold Medal 2020