Curators appointed for 2018 Venice Biennale

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Shelley McNamara (left) and Yvonne Farrell (right) of Grafton Architects.

Shelley McNamara (left) and Yvonne Farrell (right) of Grafton Architects. Image: La Biennale di Venezia

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Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología (UTEC) by Grafton Architects.

Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología (UTEC) by Grafton Architects. Image: Iwan Baan

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The board of the Venice Biennale has appointed Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Dublin-based practice Grafton Architects as curators of the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale.

Farrell and McNamara co-founded Grafton Architects in 1977. They were represented at the 2002 Venice Architecture Biennale. At the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale, the pair won the Silver Lion for their presentation Architecture as New Geography, which was part of the international exhibition Common Ground.

The latter explored the common themes between Grafton Architects’ designs for the Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología (UTEC) in Peru and Brazilian architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha’s Serra Dourada Stadium. Grafton Architects’ campus project investigated the idea of a university as an “arena for learning.”

Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología (UTEC) by Grafton Architects. Image:  Iwan Baan

The completed project was awarded the inaugural RIBA International Prize in 2016.

In announcing the appointment, Paolo Baratta, president of the Venice Biennale indicated that the theme of the 16th International Architecture Exhibition in 2018 could follow on from the 15th exhibition, curated by Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena and themed Reporting from the Front.

“The exhibition curated by Alejandro Aravena offered visitors a critical overview of the worldwide evolution of architecture and underlined how important it is that a qualified demand on the part of individuals and communities be met by an equally effective response, thereby confirming that architecture is one of civil society’s instruments for organizing the space in which it lives and works,” Baratta said.

“Along these lines, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara will continue to address the same theme but from the point of view of the quality of the public and private space, of urban space, of the territory and of the landscape as the main ends of architecture. The curators, who are well-known for the refinement of their work, are also known for their intense didactic activity and their ability to involve and fascinate new generations.”

Grafton Architects has designed several school and university projects mostly in Ireland. The practice has also won international competitions for the School of Economics at the University of Toulouse (France), Kingston University Town House (UK), Institute Mines Telecom campus in Saclay, Paris, and a new city library for Dublin (with Shaffrey Associates). It was also selected to design new faculty building for London School of Economics and Political Science.

In 2008, Grafton Architects’ new building for the Università Bocconi in Milan, Italy was named World Building of the Year at the inaugural World Architecture Festival Awards. In 2015 Farrell and McNamara received the Jane Drew Prize in recognition of their work as women in architecture and in 2016 they received the Irish Design Institute President’s Award.

Farrell and McNamara have held a number of teaching positions throughout Europe and the USA. They are currently professors of architecture at the Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio (Switzerland) and adjunct professors at University College Dublin. They held the positions of the Kenzo Tange Chair at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design in 2010 and Louis Khan Chair at Yale University in 2011.

Both have also been jury members of the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2008, the Mies van der Rohe prize in 2011 and the RIBA Award in 2012.

The 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale will run from 26 May to 25 November, 2018.


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