Irish architects’ work honoured by prestigious RIBA Gold Medal

The most prestigious award in world architecture, the RIBA Gold Medal, has been awarded to husband and wife team, O’Donnell Tuomey.

Sheila O’Donnell and John Tuomey, who set up in practice in Dublin in 1988 and were to the fore in the regeneration of the original Temple Bar area of Dublin, have been the recipients of a number of national and international awards.

The firm’s buildings have been shortlisted for the Stirling Prize a record five times, including its most recent work, the Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at the London School of Economics, shortlisted for the 2014 RIBA prize.

Cork’s Glucksman Gallery, which has also garnered a number of awards from the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland, and from RIBA as well as a UK Civic Trust award, also made the Stirling Prize shortlist for 2005.

O’Donnell + Tuomey follow architect Michael Scott (Scott Tallon Walker), who won his Gold Medal in 1975 and engineer Peter Rice’s award in 1992.

They will also be the first husband-and-wife team to achieve the award since Charles and Ray Eames in 1979 and Michael and Patricia Hopkins in 1994, and are among the youngest recipients of the award.

At the announcement, RIBA President Stephen Hodder said: “O’Donnell + Tuomey’s work is always inventive, striking, yet so well considered, particular to its place and brief, beautifully crafted — and ever-developing. Sheila and John are at the vanguard of contemporary Irish architecture and I am delighted they are to receive this lifetime honour.”

The firm has exhibited three times at the Venice Biennale and the couple are alumni of the School of Architecture at University College Dublin, where they also teach.

In a statement, they described their surprise at the news: “We’re delighted to have been chosen for this unexpected honour. We’re humbled to find ourselves in such a company of heroes — architects whose work we have studied and from whose example we continue to learn.

“We believe in the social value and the poetic purpose of architecture and the gold medal encourages us to prevail in this most privileged and complicated career.”

The 2015 Royal Gold Medal will be presented at a special event in London on February 3, 2015.

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