Credit: George Pohl
Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi
In the three weeks since a pair of students at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design launched a petition demanding some glory for architect Denise Scott Brown, FAIA, a debate that has persisted since 1991 has escalated into a full-on uproar. If it continues at its recent pace, the Change.org petition created by Arielle Assouline-Lichten with Caroline James will eclipse 10,000 signatures some time over the weekend. A pair of articles appearing in The New York Times and The New Yorker means that the issue has broken into the mainstream.
Scott Brown told ARCHITECT earlier this month that she considered thousands of people calling on the Pritzker Architecture Prize jury to recognize Scott Brown's contributions to the 1991 award given to her husband and co-partner Robert Venturi, FAIA, to be legitimate validation. That doesn't mean she hasn't given any thought to what could come next: an "inclusion ceremony," a corrective she settled on three years ago. Gareth Cook elaborates in The New Yorker:
As she imagines it, the ceremony would not have the feel of the lavish annual affairs that celebrate the induction of a new laureate. I pushed her to tell me more, and she said that perhaps it could be something modest in one of the spaces she worked on, like the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman Quad. She has allowed herself to imagine it many times, but prefers to keep the details to herself. It’s important, she said, to allow the Pritzker organization to come to its own answer. “I know enough about creativity to know that there is a level at which I should say it, and define the warm heart of it, and the unpretentiousness of it, but then after that,” she said, “I should let them be the designer.”
Some ten-thousand people have asked the Pritzker Prize jury to get to designing that ceremony already. For The New York Times, Robin Pogrebin cherry-picked a few design professionals and asked them why they signed. (Or why not, in the case of Robert A. M. Stern, FAIA, who objects to the term "demand" in the petition.) Pogrebin spoke to figures across the industry, asking them how sexism figures into architecture:
“It’s embedded and the Pritzker Prizes embed it,” said Beverly Willis, an architect who founded the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation, which supports women in architecture. “They’re totally outdated, they’re totally passé and if they continue trying to isolate the Howard Roark man, they’re totally irrelevant.”
Pritzker Architecture Prize executive director Martha Thorne says that the petition will be on the agenda for the next meeting of the Pritzker Prize jury, which includes U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and five other men. By the time the jury assembles in May, they will be answering to many more people than Scott Brown.
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