Irish architects win World Building of the Year for Milan development

Irish firm Grafton Architects have won the first ever World Building of the Year award for their new faculty building for the Luigi Bocconi University in Milan.

The building, described by the judges as 'totally 3d' beat 700 entries from 63 countries including a Dutch sheep stable, a Japanese house made entirely from wood and a Spanish rubbish dump to take the award at the inaugural World Architecture Festival in Barcelona.

Chairman of the international jury, Robert Stern, who replaced Sir Norman Foster at the last minute after one of his design's was shortlisted for the final, said Grafton Architects had designed a building that fitted within the urban landscape but still stood out.

The judges felt the use of space, light and local materials captured the essence of the city and the desire of the university to be connected with its surroundings.

Yvonne Farrell, director and co-founder of the award winning practice, said the design team had worked hard to create a building that would connect the university with the wider city. 'We wanted to capture the ambition of the university within the city. The more globalisation happens the more important it is for architecture to be a place where you can anchor a city and keep its essence,' she added.

Colleague Shelley McNamara said they first visited Milan on a grey winter day but the more time they spent working there the more they were able to capture what it meant in their design. 'Milan is dense, tough and modern. Working there for six years we learnt so much from the city itself,' she explained.

The building, which is officially opened this week, has 883 offices, a 1,000 seat auditorium, foyer, convention area and underground parking for 190 cars.

The company has a number of awards this year including the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland award for its work on the Department of Finance, on Dublin's Merrion Row.