Image by Chris Hahn

THE WOMEN BEHIND ROENTGEN BUILDING

7/12/20
Kendall Scarpa

At some point or another, all of us have entered Roentgen, for a dreaded paper show or to snap a quick CV photo for the stunning backdrop: but how much do you know about the building? A friend visiting once referred to it as that ugly concrete building on the corner, while it is a large and imposing structure, I can’t disagree with my friend more. The masterminds behind this structure are Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, both Irish architects who met during the college years, and decades down the line they operate the firm Grafton Architects together. This structure was their first international commission external to their native homeland. Although new to working abroad, they were no novices. The building won international acclaim and prestige after being awarded World Building of the Year in Barcelona at the 2008 World Architectural Festival.


Only when reading more about the intentions of their designs of Roentgen, do you fully comprehend their ingenuity. The large public space at the intersection of Viale Bligny and Via Roentgen, meant to act as an invitation, inviting the unassuming public to enter and explore the expansive building. Nowadays, this space and it’s smooth concrete is more of an open invitation to the young skateboarders who like to practice there. The glass walls along Viale Bligny were also a conscious decision to highlight the cultural and educational significance that Bocconi has to Milan, by allowing visitors to have a ‘window’ and impressionable moment of our reputable institution. 


The awards for the building didn’t stop and neither did the awards attributed to the women behind it. The women continue to undertake projects together internationally, garnering international acclaim. Other examples of their work can be found at the University Campus UTEC Lima, Toulouse School of Economics, the University of Limerick, and many more. 


This year their efforts were rewarded with the highest possible award to be honored within the architecture field, the “architecture’s Nobel” so to say. The Pritzker Prize, since 1979 is awarded to a living architect for their significant contribution and achievement in the industry. This makes them the 4th and 5th women to receive this award out of 48 other laureates in the history of the award, placing alongside some of the other greats such as Zaha Hadid. The women are currently 68 and 69 years old, representative of how neither age nor gender is an inhibitor of success. In addition, to still practicing architecture both women work as an educator, inspiring and developing those who will one day seek to develop the skylines and environments that surround us all.