Meeting Grafton Architects: Irish Ladies Leading the Way!

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Shannon Chance with Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell of Dublin-based Grafton Architects.

I finally got to meet Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell, founders of Grafton Architects and designers of my home here in Dublin.

You may recall blogs I posted in October 2012 titled Hats off to Grafton Architects, a post about sun angles in winter, and a video clip I made shortly after moving into “my Dublin Castle.” I have attached my apartment tour which is quite goofy. In it, explained features unique to Ireland and the EU, but I called the water tank “electric storage.” That’s factually true, but here they use the term just for the wall heaters that heat bricks in the night, when electricity costs less, and radiate that heat our during the day.

I learned more about electric storage heat from my maintenance guy, Keith Brown. I posted a blog where he showed me how they work. I sure do miss Keith as he was able to fix anything, usually the way my grandpa would have! Pa grew up during the Great Depression and was quite thrifty! Keith, on the other hand, moved to Spain.

I, on the other hand, am not moving to Spain any time soon. But this flat is plenty warm and sunny.

I love every minute in this place, perched high in the Smithfield Lofts that Yvonne and Shelley designed back in 2006. Last night, I got to tell them how much I enjoy living here.

Grafton Architects

Covers from “Totally Dublin”

I had braved the lashing rain, trotting across town to pick up new specs at Ace and Tate and then over to Fumbally for an event produced by the magazine Totally Dublin, which ran a feature on them in January 2018 that I still have on my coffee table.

The talks weren’t starting on time. Or rather, Irish evening-time tends to run quite behind what the clock face shows. This event ran 8-10 PM, rather than the 7-8:30 PM published. In any case, I had time to grab a slice of cake and get psyched up to hear these amazing architects talk.

In the interim, I decided to hop across the room to tell Yvonne and Shelley that I’m a big fan and I love my home.

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A Dickens Christmas in cozy Smithfield

I showed them the photo I took last week from my balcony, which I’d posted in an earlier blog.

They seemed delighted to hear their building was loved, as that construction process was rough, with the developer cutting corners and ultimately going out of business when the economy crashed. I’d been told that unfortunate story by my colleagues when I moved in and was glad to help these architects reconnect with their creation. Incidentally, any criticisms I’ve ever had of this building are due to poor workmanship and Ireland’s very strange fire codes.

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Shelley McNamara sharing insights

These architects are now world-famous. They curated the Venice Biennale this year, bringing Irish architecture and Irish design to the fore of the world stage. They dedicated the 2018 Biennale to “Freespace,” which I might describe as third-space, public space where everyone is welcome and treated with equal dignity and respect.

Last night, Shelley and Yvonne discussed their role in the Biennale and working together since they first met in architecture school at UCD where they graduated in 1974. Imagine, they entered in a class that was gender balanced at the end of the 1960s!

Consider that the year Shelley and Yvonne entered architecture school, women were not allowed to study this subject in many universities in the USA, including the University of Virginia (a place Yvonne and Shelley mentioned to me last night). UVA began admitting women in the year 1970. The institution had admitted a few women before this date because they had a medical school that needed nurses; my mom earned a Bachelors in Nursing there at UVA in the mid-60s.

What a revelation, to learn there was gender balance in architecture admissions here in Ireland at the same time there were 0% women and 100% men in architecture at UVA!

Yvonne and Shelley said they’d never experienced gender discrimination in their lifetimes as architects, designing buildings in Ireland, Peru, Italy, Spain, France…. That was quite inspiring to hear!

Yesterday evening also featured discussions with the photographer and artistic director of the magazine’s October cover piece on “The Bumbles” and discussion and performance by busker NC Lawlor, an Irish man reared in Manchester and now living and performing in many types of venues in Dublin. You’ll have to find him busking on Grafton Street if you want to hear him first hand!

Below are photos of the evening, along with pics I’ve snapped over time of my cozy flat.

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