In receiving RIBA’s Royal Gold Medal, O’Donnell + Tuomey become the third Irish practice ever to win the award.
O’Donnell + Tuomey has won this year’s RIBA Royal Gold Medal for lifetime achievement, making it only the third Irish practice to receive the award. The pair follows in the footsteps of engineer Peter Rice, who won in 1992, and Michael Scott in 1975.
The Dublin-based firm, founded by Sheila O’Donnell and John Tuomey, has also been shortlisted for this year’s Stirling Prize for the London School of Economics’ Saw Swee Hock Student Centre.
The building, with its imaginative brickwork, makes the best of its awkward setting within narrow medieval streets behind Aldwych. Its shape is defined by the sightlines down surrounding streets, giving it a real presence from Kingsway and Lincoln’s Inn Fields.
Overall, O’Donnell + Tuomey has been nominated a record five times for the Stirling Prize, also for the Ranelagh Multi-Denominational School in Dublin (1999); Lewis Glucksman Gallery in Cork (2005); An Gaeláras in Derry, Northern Ireland (2011); and the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, Northern Ireland (2012).
Sheila O’Donnell and John Tuomey worked for Stirling and Wilford then Colquhoun and Miller in London, before branching out by themselves with the Photographers’ Gallery in Soho as their first solo commission.
“One can think of many distinguished practices that have developed [in Ireland] during the extraordinary boom in construction between 1995 and 2008, including Heneghan Peng and Grafton Architects,” said architect architect and previous honours-committee member Níall McLaughlin, “but I do think the Irish practice with the most significant influence over the last two decades has been O’Donnell + Tuomey.
“The combination of Sheila’s quiet, studied Rationalism and John’s fluent, rhetorical Constructivism quickly made its mark. Over three decades, their work developed from mannered neo-classicism in the European vein, to a highly crafted low-tech vernacular, through to a boisterous Constructivism. Their work is evolving and open to experiment, with the best individual projects coming as quieter reflections on their noisier ideas.”