2010 HONORARY FELLOWSHIP
The AIA Honorary Fellowship program was developed as the international counterpart to the Fellowship program. Election to honorary fellowship not only recognizes the achievements of the foreign architect as an individual, but also elevates before the international public and the profession a model architect who has made a significant contribution to architecture and society on an international level.
An architect of esteemed character and distinguished achievements who is neither a U.S. citizen nor a resident of the United States and who does not primarily practice architecture within the domain of the Institute may be admitted to honorary fellowship.
After graduating from the University College Dublin in 1976, Sheila O’Donell, Hon. FAIA, moved to London to continue her work and studies. In 1980 she was awarded a Masters Degree in Environmental Design from the Royal College of Art London, winning the prize for best graduating student. This course consolidated her interest in urban design, historic context, and the relationship between buildings and landscape. She spent 18 months working for James Stirling on the detailed design of the Clore Gallery at the Tate before returning to Dublin in 1981.
Although she has lived in Dublin since then, she has continued her involvement with the world of London architecture through teaching, exhibiting work, lecturing, and as a member of the Royal Institute of British Architecture (RIBA) Awards group since 2006. With her partner John Tuomey (also recognized with Honorary Fellowship this year), she is currently working on the design of two significant buildings in Central London: a new students’ Centre for the London School of Economics which was won through an international architectural competition, and a building for The Photographer’s Gallery in Soho.
Returning to the depressed city of Dublin in the early 1980s, she became involved with a small group of colleagues in a number of activities to promote an architectural culture and start a debate about the future of the city. They established the Blue Studio Architecture Gallery which also published books. They produced design proposals, including one for the regeneration and repopulation of Dublin’s Docklands which they exhibited in the Blue Studio and which was published in a special edition of the London Architects Journal. These activities led to the formation of Group 91, a collaborative of young architectural practices which won a competition for the urban regeneration of Temple Bar in the historic center of Dublin. The work was completed in 1996 and has been published worldwide and was exhibited in the Architecture League in New York in 1998.
Her firm, O’Donnell + Tuomey, was established with her partner John in 1988, and in the 21 years of their practice they have developed a reputation for making intense, poetic, site-specific buildings with a strong sense of material richness in urban and landscape contexts. They have won the Royal Institute of Architecture Ireland (RIAI) Gold Medal, six Architectural Association Ireland (AAI) Downes Medals, been finalists three times for the Mies Van der Rohe European Architecture Award, shortlisted twice for the Stirling Prize and their work has been exhibited in architecture galleries worldwide and at the Venice Biennale. O’Donnell’s professional work has continued to develop the spirit of architectural, social, and cultural investigation which characterized her exploratory activities in the early 1980s. Tod Williams, FAIA, described her work in his letter of support, “Sheila’s contributions are as delicate as her lovely watercolors and as strong as the concrete and timber that is the palette of her work. She has a poetic wisdom particular to the Irish, producing a unique architecture, quiet and solid, sensitive and yet radiating joy. She brings to their architecture the poetry of the painter and the grounding of the builder.”
O’Donnell’s first significant public building was the Irish Film Institute in Temple Bar. This project involved the transformation of the historic Quakers headquarters in Dublin. She developed a set of principles for the integration of contemporary architecture with historic structures which was published by the RIBA as an exemplar in Re-readings, a book on the reworking of historic structures, and has received many awards including the AAI Downes Medal. Additionally, Sheila has designed a number of schools and other educational buildings and worked closely with the Department of Education on the development of the brief for a new kind of primary school to deal with particular problems facing disadvantaged communities. Cherry Orchard School was built as an experimental pilot project to test and develop this brief and received many awards and was published by OECD as an exemplary educational building.
Her other built work includes Letterfrack Furniture College, Ranelagh School and the Photographic Centre Temple Bar, all of which received the AAI Downes Medal, and the Glucksman Gallery and Sean O’Casey Community Centre which received special awards from the RIBA. In addition, since 1981 she has been a lecturer on architectural design at the University College Dublin and a visiting critic and lecturer at schools of architecture in Europe, Japan, Venezuela, and the United States, including Princeton, Michigan, Buffalo, Yale, Columbia, Syracuse, and Cooper Union.
Anne Schopf, FAIA, her Honorary Fellowship sponsor wrote “Sheila’s work is thoughtful and inspired, rigorous and whimsical. Her unique contribution to the shared practice with John can be seen in the use of her watercolor studies of context and building form. These watercolor studies have been exhibited in the Royal Academy in London and in the Royal Irish Academy.”
Henry Alexander Jr., FAIA
Jeffrey A. Huberman, FAIA
Allan W. Kehrt, FAIA
Michael Lischer, FAIA
Paula J. Loomis, FAIA
Robert Loversidge, FAIA
Gregory S. Palermo, FAIA
Jim W. Sealy, FAIA