In lieu of holding a belated in-person award ceremony, the organizers of the Pritzker Architecture Prize have opted to honor its 2020 laureates, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Dublin-based Grafton Architects, with a special video tribute that salutes their remarkable careers as architects and educators.
Farrell and McNamara, the first duo to be named the recipients of the Pritzker Prize since 2010 and the first Ireland-based architects to win in the 42-year history of the award, were announced as the 2020 laureates in early March just as the coronavirus pandemic began to spread across Europe, first in northern Italy. The invitation-only Pritzker Prize ceremony, which is normally held a couple of months after the announcement of laureates in May, is hosted in a different architecturally significant venue each year and includes a speech by its recipient(s), comments from the jury chairman and a dignitary representing the host country, and the conference of the award medallion. Recent venues have included France’s Château de Versailles (2019), the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto (2018), Akasaka Palace in Tokyo (2017), and the United Nations complex in New York City (2016.)
In theory, this year’s virtual ceremony, presented as a nearly 40-minute video tribute, took place all over with featured speakers delivering their remarks remotely from cities across the world. Farrell and McNamara accepted the honor from, most appropriately, the magnificent Library of Trinity College Dublin. As Tom Pritzker, chairman of the Chicago-based Hyatt Foundation, noted in his remarks: “This is the first time in our 42-year history in which the site of the prize isn’t the built work of a building but rather the built work of modern technology.”
Other featured speakers included Michael Higgins, President of Ireland; Pritzker Prize executive director Martha Thorne, and Justice Stephen Breyer, who served as jury chair for the 2020 prize. At the end of the virtual ceremony, a host of past laureates—Thom Mayne, Shigeru Ban, Norman Foster, Renzo Piano, and Frank Gehry among them—along with jury members past and present offer heartfelt congratulations to Farrell and McNamara from across the world.
“The virtual ceremony, after all, provides an opportunity for us all to celebrate with you and to share in our great achievement, and the deserved recognition you’ve been given,” said Higgins in his speech to Farrell and McNamara.
The full video of the ceremony can be viewed here along with an abbreviated highlight version that runs just under 12 minutes.