Hats Off to Grafton Architects

Looking toward the southwest, with the smokestack of the Jameson Distillery and in the background. Smithfield Lofts is in the lower center of the image. (Photo from Apple Maps.)

Joan Calahin, an architect I met on the Open House Dublin tour of Smithfield, told me that the building where we live was the result of a design competition.  The site was blighted and a competition was held to fill it in a skillful way.  The wood used on the exterior hadn’t been weathering well (raising the ire of the public), and it was recently treated and stained. Today the wood looks great!

Smithfield Lofts, designed by Grafton Architects.

The architects were Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of the firm Grafton Architects. Their webpage about the project could really use Dave’s photographic prowess (the photos of this project really don’t do it justice).  But I assure you, the design is worthy of an award.  I could tell that from several thousand miles away (on the property rental site, Daft.ie).

Sima says Grafton Architects is her favorite firm in Ireland, but notes that fact they haven’t had this project professionally photographed shows that they’re not all that proud of it.

They would have had that done if they had entered it for a design award, for instance.  And, the firm’s list of design awards is quite impressive, so they know what they’re doing in many regards.

Although this building reflects quality design, it’s not Grafton Architects’ very best work. I have a number of critiques despite the fact that I enjoy the quality of life it affords me.

And, it has gotten an enthusiastic response from many people (including my apartment-hunting self).

In February 2007, The Irish Times stated “This smart looking building… is situated in the city centre on a landmark site on the corner of Dublin’s Church Street and North King Street. Striking design by Grafton Architects marks it out as one of the more well-thought out, visually appealing apartment schemes.”

Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell accepted the Silver Lion award at the Venice Bienaale on 29 August 2012. (Photo from the RIAI website.)

In April that year, the same paper featuredthe two designers:

“Carrying the international standard for Ireland’s architects are McNamara and Farrell, who founded Grafton Architects in Dublin in 1977. If you want a university campus sketched up, they’re the people to go to — but these days, sadly, they’re hard to commission when it comes to designing one-off homes.  Farrell and McNamara have been at the forefront developing Ireland’s architectural reputation abroad — in 1999/2000, they won the design competition for Luigi Bocconi University in Milan, a project set to be completed at the end of this year.  In 2003 they were honoured with the European Union’s Mies van der Rohe award for their civic offices in Dunshaughlin, Co Meath. McNamara was the first architect to be elected to Aosdana, Ireland’s academy of artists, and both she and Farrell lecture at UCD.  Between the civic and cultural buildings that have become their hallmark, they still occasionally design the odd private home — but such projects are unusual.  They have designed and built houses and apartments in Dublin, Mayo, Galway and Clare, winning numerous awards from the RIAI and AAI. McNamara built her own mews home, where she lives with her husband, the painter Michael Kane, which incorporates a studio.  In 1999, the firm’s Hall House, a stacked structure on a corner site in Ranelagh, and Dix House, in Howth, were exhibited by the RIAI. But it was Grafton’s Two Mews Houses on Clyde Lane that garnered the most honours, winning AAI and RIAI awards in 1993 and gaining a special commendation at The Sunday Times Irish Building of The Year award ceremony in 1994.”

Looking from the south. (Photo from Apple Maps.)

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