‘Architects are rarely at the table when crucial decisions are being made’

CROP_Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects_c_Morely von Sternberg

Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell of Grafton Architects discuss hope and fear with Elizabeth Hopkirk

Maybe it’s the sunlight streaming through the windows of the president’s office at the RIBA or the fact that they are here to receive a lifetime achievement award, but Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara are in contagiously positive mood. Architecture, humanity. They even find something hopeful to say about Brexit.

“You can’t be an architect unless you are optimistic,” says McNamara. “It’s the nature of architecture. You are imagining new worlds. How do you do that if you’re not optimistic?”

It isn’t only architects. The very act of commissioning a building is an investment in the future, she says. The pair – earnest, warm, interested in everything – are at pains to share credit for the Gold Medal with all their collaborators, from clients to “the workmen and women whose names we don’t know” who made their buildings.

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