Lyric Theatre architects receive world’s most prestigious award

Lyric Theatre architects Sheila O’Donnell and John Tuomey have been announced as the winners of the Royal Gold Medal, the world’s most prestigious architecture award.

Given in recognition of a lifetime’s work, the Royal Gold Medal is approved personally by Her Majesty The Queen and is given to a person or group of people who have had a significant influence “either directly or indirectly on the advancement of architecture”.

Past recipients have been such luminaries as Sir Norman Foster, who designed the Gherkin in London and Sir George Gilbert Scott, famous for the Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras Station and the Albert Memorial in London.

The Lyric Theatre is one of a record five buildings by the Dublin-based architects O’Donnell + Tuomey to have been shortlisted for the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Stirling Prize.

The firm was shortlisted in 1999 for Ranelagh Multi-Denominational School (Dublin, Ireland), 2005 for the Lewis Glucksman Gallery (Cork, Ireland), 2011 for An Gaeláras Irish Language Arts and Cultural Centre (Londonderry) and in 2014 for the London School of Economics Saw Swee Hock Students’ Centre (London, UK).

It is forty years since the Royal Gold Medal has been awarded to an Irish practice, with Sheila and John being among the youngest recipients of the Medal. The Lyric has won a string of architectural prizes since it was rebuilt in 2011, including Best Building at the Royal Society of Ulster Architects.

The Lyric Theatre’s chairman, Mark Carruthers, said:

“Everyone at the Lyric is thrilled to see O’Donnell + Tuomey receiving the global recognition their work deserves. It comes as no surprise to any of us that Sheila and John should attract the highest accolade in world architecture – we know better than anyone that they design buildings which are both brilliant and beautiful. We always knew that the task of designing the new Lyric would be a stiff challenge, given the complexity of the site and the intricate, technical demands of a theatre building, but Sheila and John’s ideas exceeded our wildest expectations. Their Lyric Theatre is a building for everyone in Belfast and beyond and we’re delighted that audiences and architectural experts alike agree that it was designed by two people who are in a class of their own. As the citation for this latest award so rightly says of O’Donnell + Tuomey, ‘Everything they do speaks to the best of us’.

The architects are special guests at the opening night of Pentecost on Wednesday 24 September. The Stewart Parker play, directed by Jimmy Fay, runs until Saturday 18 October.