As La Biennale prepares to open to the public this Saturday May 26, PLANE—SITE spoke to curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara about this edition’s theme, Freespace. They move beyond architecture as an object, instead imagining Freespace as an invitation to think about architecture as a space of opportunities. Literally and metaphorically, Freespace presents environments of generosity, accessibility and freedom and celebrates the rich civic experiences that they create.
Curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara Provide Insight Into the Theme of the 2018 Venice Biennale
The Board of Directors of La Biennale di Venezia, upon recommendation from 2018 curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects, have announced the jury for the forthcoming Venice Biennale.
The jury will be responsible for awarding the Golden Lion for Best National Participation, the Golden Lion for Best Participant in the International Exhibition FREESPACE, and the Silver Lion for a Promising Young Participant in the International Exhibition FREESPACE. They will also have the opportunity to award one special mention to National Participations and two special mentions to the participants in the International Exhibition.
Farrell and McNamara established Grafton Architects in 1978. They have held the Kenzo Tange Chair at Harvard GSD and the Louis Kahn Chair at Yale University. The pair has also been invited as visiting teachers at EPFL in Lausanne and the Accademia d'Archittettura, in Mendrisio, where they were appointed as teachers in 2013, in addition to visiting several other universities worldwide for lectures and crits.
“When you read Love in the Time of Cholera you come to realize the magic realism of South America.” Yvonne Farrell, Shelley McNamara and I were in a corner of the Barbican Centre’s sprawling, shallow atrium talking about the subject of their most recent accolade, the Royal Institute of British Architects inaugural International Prize, awarded that previous evening. That same night the two Irish architects, who founded their practice in Dublin in the 1970s, also delivered a lecture on the Universidad de Ingeniería and Tecnologia (UTEC)—their “modern-day Machu Picchu” in Lima—to a packed audience in London’s Portland Place.
Farrell and McNamara, who together lead a team of twenty-five as Grafton Architects, are both powerful thinkers, considered conversationalists and unobtrusively groundbreaking designers. For a practice so compact, their international portfolio is exceptionally broad. The first phase of the UTEC in the Peruvian capital, which began following an international competition in 2011, represents the farthest territory the practice have geographically occupied. The project is, in their words, a “man-made cliff” between the Pacific and the mountains – on one side a cascading garden, and on the other a “shoulder” to the city cast from bare concrete.
Grafton Architects' co-founders Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara have been jointly awarded the fourth annual Jane Drew Prize for their “massive influence” on the profession. The “hardworking” Dublin-based duo impressed the jury, which included Norman Foster and Patty Hopkins, for not being “afraid to speak in a language that is feminine” yet “produce buildings which are robust and full of conviction.”
“Grafton’s buildings are consistently high quality. Their approach is solid,” added the jury. “They are business-savvy.”