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Pritzker Architecture Prize Committee Mulls Petition for Denise Scott Brown
A petition on Change.org demands that Denise Scott Brown, FAIA, be retroactively recognized for her contributions that led to her husband winning the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1991. Robert Venturi, FAIA, received the prize—architecture's highest honor—for the work of Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, in which Scott Brown is co-partner.
The petition calls on Martha Thorne, executive director for the Pritzker Architecture Prize committee, to redress an "unfortunate oversight" in recognizing Venturi but not Scott Brown.
"Brown had been a co-partner for over 22 years in their practice Venturi Scott Brown and Associates and played a critical role in the evolution of architectural theory and design alongside Venturi for over 30 years," the petition reads. "She co-authored the 1977 book Learning from Las Vegas, among others."
Called for a response, a spokesperson for the Pritzker Architecture Prize said, "I notified Mr. [Thomas] Pritzker. He’s taken it under advisement."
The longstanding debate over the prize's attribution was revived this week after Scott Brown gave comments last week at the Architects' Journal Women in Architecture Lunch in London. "They owe me not a Pritzker Prize but a Pritzker inclusion ceremony," she said in prepared remarks, according to Architects' Journal. "Let’s salute the notion of joint creativity."
Fans and followers echoed Scott Brown's comments this week over social media, in a discussion that culminated in a Change.org petition that reached more than 100 signatures today.
The spokesperson said that he forwarded the email he received from petitioners to Thorne, who resides in Spain. He claimed that today was the first time that the committee had heard about Scott Brown's remarks.
Questions raised more than 20 years ago were echoed following the announcement of the 2012 award winner. When Wang Shu won the Pritzker Prize last year, some observers asked why Lu Wenyu—Wang's wife and co-partner in Amateur Architecture Studio—did not receive equal recognition. Los Angeles Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne asked Wang last February whether his wife should have been awarded as well. “Yes,” Wang told Hawthorne. “Every time when I finish the first sketch of a building, she is the first one to see it. And if she doesn’t like it, I go back and draw it again.”
It is not altogether rare that the Pritzker Architecture Prize is awarded to dual winners. Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa received the award for their work (as SANAA) in 2010. Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron jointly received the Pritzker in 2001, as architect Sheri Olson, FAIA, observed in a tenacious tweet—one that was representative of the discussion today on Twitter.
Herzog & de Meuron's award in 2001 marked the first time the Pritzker had ever been granted to a pair from a single firm. (In 1988, both Gordon Bunshaft and Oscar Niemeyer received the prize, but for separate practices.) Of 36 Pritzker awardees, only two are women: Sejima and Zaha Hadid, Hon. FAIA, who became in 2004 the first woman to receive the prize.
Jay and Cindy Pritzker established the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1978, modeling the award after the Nobel Prize. Winners receive a bronze medallion and a $100,000 grant. Thomas Pritzker is the current president of the Hyatt Foundation, the body that sponsors the award. Toyo Ito received the 2013 Pritzker earlier in March.
Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates rebranded as VSBA in July following Venturi's retirement. Scott Brown remains with the firm.
UPDATE: Pritzker Architecture Prize committee executive director Martha Thorne provided a response via email: "As you may know, the Pritzker Laureate is chosen annually by a panel of independent jurors. Those jurors change over the years, so this matter presents us with an unusual situation. The most that I can say at this point is that I will refer this important matter to the current jury at their next meeting."