Breaking: Grafton Architects' Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell will curate Venice Architecture Biennale in 2018
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Breaking: Grafton Architects' Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell will curate Venice Architecture Biennale in 2018

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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
– Paolo Baratta, Biennale president

Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, co-founders of Irish studio Grafton Architects, have been appointed as curators of the 16th Venice International Architecture Exhibition in 2018.

The duo – who have just claimed the inaugural RIBA International Prize for the UTEC University campus in Lima, Peru – will expand on the social themes explored by Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena at the 2016 Biennale, focusing on how architecture can be used as a tool of civil society.

The board of the festival met yesterday (16 January) to confirm the appointment.

Explaining the decision, its president, Paolo Baratta, said: “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 organising the space in which it lives and works.

“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.”

The Biennale will be inaugurated on Saturday 26 May 2018 and will conclude on Sunday 25 November 2018.

Farrell and McNamara formed Grafton Architects in 1977. In addition to the RIBA International Prize, the firm previously won the World Building of the Year in 2008 for the Università Bocconi in Milan and were nominated for for the Stirling Prize in 2013 for the University of Limerick Medical School and Student Accommodation. The duo have also won the Jane Drew Award in 2015 and the Irish Design Institute President’s Award in 2016.

They have been represented at the Venice Biennale on three occasions, and won the Silver Lion award in 2012 for their research into themes of architecture as ‘built geography’, which centred around the mountain-like UTEC project.

The 2016 Biennale was themed Reporting from the Front, and showcased architectural solutions for various global challenges – from natural disasters to financial constraints, pollution, crime and housing shortages.

Aravena, who also won the 2016 Pritzker Prize, pledged to demonstrate “there is not only a need, but also room for action” in improving the environments where people live, work, interact and relax.

Other previous curators include Rem Koolhaas in 2014, David Chipperfield in 2012, Kazuyo Sejima in 2010 and Aaron Betsky in 2008.

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Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, co-founders of Irish studio Grafton Architects, have been appointed as curators of the 16th Venice International Architecture Exhibition in 2018.
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