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.
John Tuomey, Hon. FAIA, is partner with his wife, Sheila O’Donnell, Hon. FAIA, in the firm of O’Donnell + Tuomey in Dublin, Ireland. The son of a civil engineer, John grew up on building sites, often drawing on the back of his father’s blueprints. After graduating from the University College Dublin (UCD) in 1976, his first job was with James Stirling in London, where he worked on the Stuttgart Staatsgalerie from competition to detail design. Returning to Dublin to work at the Office of Public Works, he completed two buildings, a laboratory in the landscape and a city courthouse, which laid the theoretical and contextual basis for his future critical practice with O’Donnell. Their partnership was established in 1988 with two public commissions arising from their cultural and social activism, the Irish Film Institute and Ranelagh Multi-denominational School. Both buildings have been recently extended in a continuing relationship with the original clients. Since these first commissions, and with the exception of particular private houses, all the subsequent work of the practice has been won in competitions.
In her letter sponsoring Tuomey for Honorary Fellowship, Anne Schopf, FAIA, wrote that “John’s impact on the quality of architecture in Ireland can be seen clearly in the work that he has created; it is culturally relevant, yet modern. Finely detailed, there is interplay of thought and intuition. Perhaps it is John’s thought and Sheila’s intuition, but one can never be sure whose hand is at work. There is a quiet dignity that suffuses each project, formed by skilled hands and true ideals.”
Professor Tuomey began his teaching career while still a student and has had a leading involvement in the studios at UCD since 1981. He has served as chairman of external examiners at the Architectural Association London and Universities of Cambridge and East London, and has lectured widely in European schools of architecture and North American universities including Buffalo, Cooper Union, Columbia, Michigan, Syracuse, Toronto, Vancouver, and Virginia. In the late eighties he spent two semesters teaching at Princeton and Harvard. He took the first Masters in Architecture awarded by UCD, where he has recently been appointed as inaugural Professor of Architectural Design.
Tuomey’s professional involvement continues beyond practice and teaching to a more civic role in the public awareness of architecture. In 1986 he initiated the Architectural Association of Ireland (AAI) awards for excellence in architectural design, attracting significant arts council sponsorship and recognition for the art of architecture, and was president of the AAI in 1992-93. He has represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale three times: curating an educational exhibit in 1991, in a solo show with Sheila O’Donnell in 2004, and in a group exhibition, the Lives of Spaces, in 2008. A regular member of awards panels and cultural commentary on architecture, he was selected to chair the jury of the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2009.
An occasional contributor to architectural criticism, commentary, and review, he is author of Architecture, Craft and Culture, now in its second edition published by Gandon Editions. The book is a reflection on principles of design and thinking behind the work of O’Donnell + Tuomey. His writing was described by Seamus Heaney as “…cogent in being both eloquent and earned”.
He was managing director of Group 91 Architects, an architects’ collaborative responsible for the urban regeneration of Temple Bar as Dublin’s cultural quarter. Partner in charge of several O’Donnell + Tuomey buildings, including the National Photography Archive, Gallery of Photography, and Irish Language Cultural Centre in Derry, he is currently leading the design team for the Lyric Theatre in Belfast and the Market Yard Museum/Library project in Coleraine. Together with Sheila O’Donnell he is developing their recent competition-winning designs for the London School of Economics Student Union and the Photographers’ Gallery in London. In describing John’s work, Billie Tsien, AIA, states in her letter of support, “There is a sober and dignified beauty that is a hallmark of all of his buildings. From the custom-designed wooden windows, to the careful calculated siting, issues small and large are addressed with imagination directed by deep and humane intelligence.”
The twin themes of the firm, urban regeneration on sensitive sites and landscape integrated design, have established common ground in the site-specific origins of the concepts and the shared social values of O’Donnell + Tuomey, earning significant recognition for the work, including the Royal Institute of Architecture Ireland Gold Medal, six AAI Downes Medals among others. In the end, John believes in the craft and culture of architecture. His work provides evidence that the poetics of architecture extend from initial concept sketches through rigorous design to careful construction.
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