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Kevin Roche Receives UCD’s Highest Honour – The Ulysses Medal

Published: Thursday, December 06, 2012

Kevin Roche, one of UCD School of Architecture's most distinguished graduates (B.Arch 1945), received the University’s highest honour, the Ulysses Medal on 28 November 2012 from UCD President Dr. Hugh Brady (pic left). Pictured right are: UCD President, Dr. Hugh Brady, Kevin Roche, Professor of Architecture, UCD Hugh Campbell and former Professor of Architecture UCD Cathal O'Neill. (photos by Stephen Tierney)

Celebrating his 90th birthday on 14 June 2012, Kevin Roche missed Bloomsday by two days but Joyce’s masterpiece is an otherwise appropriate metaphor for Kevin Roche’s own life journey which led him to become one of the most renowned architects in the world and Ireland’s only Pritzker Prize Winner. Having graduated from UCD in 1945 as “top of his class”, Kevin Roche taught for one year at UCD as a ‘demonstrator’ (studio tutor), said former Professor of Architecture at UCD, Cathal O’Neill, in his enlightening citation. Kevin Roche was joined on the occassion if his award by former students Mary O'Reilly, Joan Trimble and John O'Dockery.

Cathal O’Neill detected in his citation further parallels with James Joyce, saying that Kevin Roche’s work method of trying to understand a design problem and how it was affecting people’s lives resonated with the Joycean epiphanies. Roche’s achievement has culminated in some of the most iconic and influential buildings produced in North America in the second half of the 20th century, including the Oakland Museum of California and the Ford Foundation Headquarters and extension wings to the Metropolitan Museum of Art – both in New York. Kevin Roche continues to practise from his offices KRJDA in Hamden Connecticut (US), although he “recently stopped working on Saturdays”, said Cathal O'Neill. His practice completed the Convention Centre Dublin in 2010.

Accepting the award from UCD – which he had initially rejected on the basis “that you don’t need a reward for something you love doing” – Kevin Roche was visibly moved and delighted to be honoured by his Alma Mater. Having bought a rare copy of Finnegans Wake at the Mansion House Bookfair in 1946, the book was in Roche’s suitcase when he left for the US in 1948 to undertake post-graduate studies with Mies van der Rohe at Chicago IIT. Kevin Roche was joined by his wife Jane Roche at the celebrations in UCD.

Read an interview by Tony Reddy with Kevin Roche published in Architecture Ireland, Issue 263 (May/June 2012).



Categories: Architecture | Awards

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