Caroline James and Arielle Assouline-Lichten aren't done pulling for Denise Scott Brown, FAIA. Even though their public petition to garner honors for Scott Brown failed to move the Pritzker Architecture Prize jury, the petition's founders plan to broaden the scope of their advocacy. The women—Assouline-Lichten recently graduated from Harvard University's Graduate School of Design, and James graduates from GSD next spring—have launched a website, Design for Equality, to promote their mission.
Their first order of business is picking up where the petition left off. Assouline-Lichten and James have sent a letter to the Pritzker Prize jury outlining their disappointment with the jury's decision not to re-evaluate the 1991 award—which was given (by a different jury) to Robert Venturi, FAIA, but not Scott Brown, his partner and wife. Their letter follows:
The Pritzker Architecture Prize & 2013 Jury Members:
Lord Peter Palumbo, Chair
Yung Ho Chang
Ratan N. Tata
Martha Thorne, Executive Director
We have received your response to the Petition of over 18,000 people, which includes the support of nine Pritzker Prize laureates. We stand firm in our conviction of equal recognition for equal work.
Your letter dated June 14 states that “a later jury cannot re-open, or second guess the work of an earlier jury, and none has ever done so.” However, the rules of the Pritzker Architecture Prize are made by the Pritzker Architecture Prize. Thus, your refusal to not revisit the 1991 prize is a choice.
It's important that we distinguish the nature of our appeal: it is to obtain explicit recognition of Denise Scott Brown's material contribution to the work that the Pritzker Jury believed to merit the prize. Our sole objective is to correct the record.
We are deeply concerned that there is a systemic bias in the awarding of the Pritzker Prize, which has led in particular to the exclusion of women, and the prolonging of a myth of the lone male hero in architecture. Just one year ago, Lu Wenyu was also excluded from receiving due recognition for her work with Wang Shu that merited the Pritzker Prize in 2012. As equal partners in their respective firms, Lu Wenyu and Denise Scott Brown deserve the same respect that their male counterparts have received. Addressing these biases now is a moral and decent act to ensure that these injustices won’t happen again.
The current Pritzker Jury has the power to set the record straight. In doing so, the Pritzker jury will send a resounding message that fair recognition is essential to progress, and realizing the full potential of creativity in the architecture profession.
We look forward to hearing from you shortly, and to working together to bring justice and equal recognition to the architectural profession.
Design for Equality also tapped architectural historian Despina Stratigakos, an associate professor at the University of Buffalo, for a note to append to the campaign. Her letter follows:
What’s a prize worth? While there may be a monetary award, above all what a prize confers is prestige. And that prestige depends upon the worthiness not only of the recipient of the honor but also of the organization that bestows it. In the wake of the Pritzker Architecture Prize’s refusal to engage seriously with the meaning [sic] of the Denise Scott Brown petition, it is hard to avoid feeling that the prize has lost some of its luster. For while the petition sought to correct a past injustice rooted in the profession’s gender bias, it was about more than that. It is no coincidence that the two women who started the petition belong to a generation of students who define their practices in ways that no longer fit neatly with the Pritzker categories. Young architects’ understanding of what constitutes “good” architecture, the nature of the creative process, the values prioritized in building, and the scope of architecture’s audiences differs significantly from that of the Pritzker Prize jurors. Through her young champions, Denise Scott Brown gave the Hyatt Foundation an opportunity to open a dialogue with an emerging generation about the relevance of the big prize. Unfortunately, in its response to this wake-up call, it appears that the Pritzker Prize has firmly hit the snooze button.
No campaign would be complete without merch, so Design for Equality put together some (unisex) t-shirts for your consideration.
Check in here for further updates.