Zaha Hadid joins call for Pritzker
to correct Scott Brown "oversight"

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Denise Scott Brown outside Las Vegas in 1966

News: architects including Zaha Hadid, Farshid Moussavi and Hani Rashid have signed a petition calling for Denise Scott Brown (above) to be recognised as a Pritzker Prize laureate alongside her husband, Robert Venturi, who was awarded the prestigious prize in 1991.

The architects are among 1,720 people who have so far backed the petition demanding that "Denise Scott Brown be retroactively acknowledged for her work deserving of a joint Pritzker Prize".

Denise Scott Brown photo by Frank Hanswijk

Awarding the $100,000 prize only to Venturi in 1991 was "an unfortunate oversight," according to Women in Design, a student group at Harvard Graduate School of Design, who organised the petition.

Top: Scott Brown outside Las Vegas in 1966; photograph from the Archives of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. Above: Denise Scott Brown photographed by Frank Hanswijk

Hadid, who became the first woman to win the prize in 2004 and was on the jury in 2012, signed up to the petition on Sunday morning, according to an announcement on the Pritzker Recognition for Denise Scott Brown page on Facebook.

The petition has also been signed by leading figures including architects Moussavi and Rashid, MoMA senior curator of architecture and design Paola Antonelli, architecture photographer Iwan Baan, Rice School of Architecture dean Sarah Whiting, and Berkeley College of Environmental Design dean Jennifer Wolch.

The petition follows an address last week by Scott Brown in which she described her exclusion from the prize as "very sad". She added: "They owe me not a Pritzker Prize but a Pritzker inclusion ceremony. Let's salute the notion of joint creativity."

Scott Brown, 81, had been a partner at the couple's practice Venturi Scott Brown and Associates (now VSBA) for 22 years when Venturi was awarded the prize, which is considered the most prestigious in architecture. She co-authored their seminal 1977 book Learning From Las Vegas and still works at the practice while Venturi, 87, retired last year.

Below: Robert Venturi photographed by Frank Hanswijk

Robert Venturi photo by Frank Hanswijk

"Women in architecture deserve the same recognition as their male counterparts," said Women in Design. "Denise Scott Brown's contributions were seminal to her partner Robert Venturi winning the prize in 1991."

"Denise has suffered because she was in partnership with her husband," wrote another signatory, architect Sarah Wigglesworth, on the petition's website. "She was judged by a jury that overlooks collaborative effort and that recognises the male hero. Such bias needs redressing. Denise's work has been seminal - as an architect, a planner, a writer and an educator. What more could anyone ask for?"

Jeremy Till, head of Central St Martins, wrote: "I was at a conference in Washington the day the Pritzker for Venturi was announced. Denise Scott-Brown was the keynote. Her answers to the questions at the end about the award were so dignified, furious and loving (all at the same time) that she should be awarded the Pritzker in her own right just for that."

The Pritzker organisers said Scott Brown's comments and the petition presented them with an "unusual situation". Martha Thorne, executive director of the prize's committee, told Architecture Magazine: "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."

The jury of the 1991 Pritzker Architecture Prize mentioned Scott Brown's contribution to Venturi's work in their citation: "[Venturi's] understanding of the urban context of architecture, complemented by his talented partner, Denise Scott Brown, with whom he has collaborated on both more writings and built works, has resulted in changing the course of architecture in this century, allowing architects and consumers the freedom to accept inconsistencies in form and pattern, to enjoy popular taste."

In an interview with ArchDaily in 2011, Scott Brown spoke of her frustration at the way her role was perceived. "It’s hard for both of us — but particularly for me because I get obliterated," she said. "Visitors to our office have tunnel vision toward Bob. I am seen as his assistant, not a professional in my own right, and certainly not a designer. Why that’s anathema would take a book to define."

Zaha Hadid, who last month spoke out against "misogynist behaviour" in British architecture, became the first woman to win the Pritzker Prize in 2004. The only other woman to have won is Kazuyo Sejima, who shared the prize in 2010 with Ryue Nishizawa, her partner at Japanese architecture studio SANAA.

The row threatens to overshadow this year's prize, awarded two weeks ago to Toyo Ito. The prizegiving ceremony for the Japanese architect takes place on 29 May at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

  • Robert_Paulson

    The Pritzker jury in 1991 was pretty explicit about it’s reasoning for awarding the prize to Venturi:

    “He has expanded and redefined the limits of the art of architecture in this century, as perhaps no other has through his theories and built works. Of the former, his thin but potent volume, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, published in 1966, is generally acknowledged to have diverted the mainstream of architecture away from modernism.”

    It is pretty clear to me they viewed “Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture” as his most significant work, and the basis for his award. Venturi was the sole author on “Complexity” and it was published before he married DSB.

    I think the Pritzker committee should find a way to recognize DSB, whose contributions to the field are very significant, but Venturi is/was worthy of being a sole honoree.

    • Dave Thompson

      I agree. It’s a tricky subject but you have to acknowledge DSB without also admitting that Complexity and Contradiction was the game changer. Would DSB have been attracted to him and his work had he not written that? Probably not. Did she contribute to much of the late built work? Of course.

    • nat

      That was a good way not to include her. An important testimony on her contribution:

      Denise Scott Brown “Room at the top? Sexism and the Star System in Architecture” in Ellen Perry Berkeley (ed.) A Place for Women in Architecture (1989). Reprinted in Rendel, Penner, Borden (ed.) Gender, Space Architecture, Routledge, 2000.

    • Wah Wah

      Mark my words: if Scott Brown gets a Pritzker for complaining, the award will forever be tarnished.

  • paola

    She complains that clients only wanted to deal with her husband and not with her. She cries about being considered only an assistant. Well guess what, DSB, if people thought you were special, they would have treated you special. End of story.

  • Colonel Pancake

    I’d be more inclined to revoke all awards associated with Postmodern architecture.

    • Unbelievable

      All architecture created since the 1960s is postmodern, but I guess you know that already.

  • salvatore

    The award should be given to her posthumously. That would be fair to all the great living architects who never get the Pritzker and don’t bitch about it. And since she is already over eighty, she wouldn’t really have to wait so long anymore until she finally gets it. No?

    • Unbelievable

      What’s your obsession with hating on DSB? Not the first time I recall.

      • salvatore

        But what’s wrong with giving her the award when she’s dead? Her contribution would be recognised and that’s what it is all about, right? It’s about her contribution, not her ego. Right?

  • Filipa Roseta

    Better late than never.

  • jaaaaaaat

    Why wait until now? And what does Venturi have to say about it?

  • LaureR

    I am really shocked by some of the comments here (they seem to me below the usual critical quality of Dezeen’s comments but I am not surprised since this is a topic that directly casts doubts on what people have learned from their parents).

    @Salvatore,

    Your post is so hilariously full of hatred: the misogyny here is kind of obvious.

    @Paola

    Is that true what they say: that misogyny is not only relayed by men but also by women who feel threatened by talented people of the same sex. I really don’t think Denise Scott Brown is looking for a special treatment. On the contrary, she would like her work to receive the recognition it deserves. It’s pretty much the opposite. While the former is all about entitlement, the latter is all about equality. Don’t you think you are projecting your own conflicts here? Do YOU want to be seen as special?

    @Robert_Paulson

    While your post is more composed, I still disagree: you are only quoting the second paragraph of the jury citation, what about the 4th and the 5th? http://www.pritzkerprize.com/1991/jury Behind your argumentation, I just sense the fear of being left behind, the fear of a constantly evolving world where the white male’s place is not anymore at the top of the food chain.

    Also, that’s why I think it is important to hear Denise Scott Brown because her complaints are not only about inequality between genders but also against that old fantasy that genius or talent lies in the mind of a single person (if possible male and white) as opposed to joint creativity.

    • paola

      Hey LaureR. Of course I project my own conflicts here. I want to be special! I want to have a Pritzker too. I want a Pritzker and I want it NOW! And I cry and bitch about it until they give it to me!

      • Unbelievable

        Unlike DSB you haven’t contributed anything significant so far. Even in the art of trolling you are not setting anything that could be considered a new standard.

  • Concerned Citizen

    I seriously doubt if Scott-Brown were a man, there would be any such hue and cry. I’m tired of all these sexist justifications.

  • tomatomato

    Even if she deserves and gets an acknowledgement of this Pritzker Prize, it would never be as grand notion as the other Pritzker Prize winners, as in the back of people’s mind people will remember that she made a fuss about it in order to receive it.

  • Peter Venkman

    Poor Toyo Ito. He gets overshadowed by historical revisionism.

    Being a wife gives a privileged position of influence – one that DSB certainly used to her advantage. I’ll leave it up to smarter people whether that entitles her to equal credit. I would only hope that women find it better to start your own firm like Zaha rather then try to sleep your way up.

    I agree that Complexity and Contradiction was the game changer. Venturi started the trend. It just depends on if they were rewarding that or the completed built work which came from it and to which DSB contributed.

    • Esme

      Poor Denise Scott Brown. History has been “His” story for too long. What about hers?

      Being a husband gives a privileged position in most collaborations – one that Venturi certainly benefited from. Does that entitle him to more credit than DSB? My hope is that men would stop spending time in the pants of incredibly smart and talented women only to be given sole credit by prestigious instituions for all the fruits of their joint union.

      • Sitting Duck

        “His” story is written by the winners. Ask the Native Americans what they think about American history. If you can find any.

  • fitz

    Yes, yes, yes. This is tendentious nonsense with a disturbing Marxist tang concerned with rewriting the past to suit a leftist present. Unacceptable.

  • Sarah

    I think the numbers speak for themselves – over 2,000 supporters including the dean of harvard GSD! To the Paolas and the Salvatores, get your glasses checked, its no longer the 50s.

    • Grant

      We should celebrate the advancement of women, but rewriting history seems to be lame. Next thing you know, Anne Frank won’t die at the end of her diary, the Native Americans will triumph as Casino owners, etc.

    • Rush

      Yes, the political correctness mob is always right! Starting to sympathise with republicanism a bit more.

    • Concerned Citizen

      Wow, 2000 out of millions. That’s really impressive.

      And so what about the dean of Harvard?

  • Patrik

    Well, then she should share hers with Patrik to show a good sign.

    • tomatomato

      Poor you Patrik, you must be the one doing all the work while she gets all the glory and recognition.

  • Ben

    I am a male designer and I am in complete support of this campaign. I believe that Denise Scott Brown should be recognized retroactively by the Pritzker Prize for her role in her partnership with Venturi. I don’t think she is complaining about a thing, rather I think this is highlighting inequality in recognition already prevalent between men and women designers.

    VSB’s work was seminal and important, not only in shaping the built environment but also in shaping the minds of countless young designers (regardless of your stylistic preferences). I think this is long overdue. Go Denise!

    • Concerned Citizen

      Most everybody else thinks you’re wrong.

  • Orange

    Quentin Tarantino is going to direct his next movie about a female architect who doesn’t stand for any sexism crap in the 1960s, pushes to start her own firm, and pursues her unique creative vision. You know, fiction.

    • SHA

      Hmm, apart from perhaps Lina Bo Bardi's work? How nice it must be to be a privileged male in architecture.

  • _C_

    Why is noone concerned about Lu Wenyu not getting the prize last year with Wang Shu? Does anyone understand the office dynamic there and could comment on that condition?

    I don’t understand the office dynamic any more than I do Venturi Scott Brown, but based purely on timelines, Lu Wenyu was a founding partner and instrumental in projects since the beginning, which is not the case with Scott Brown, who was actually the third partner with Venturi at the firm and was not involved in the early projects (Mothers House, Guild House, and Complexity and Contradiction).

  • LaureR

    @ Concerned Citizen

    History is full of counterexamples to your conjecture: have a look at the Albert Schatz-Selman Waksman case. Waksman seemingly robbed Schatz of the discovery of streptomycin, first by trying to steal the patent away from him and second by being awarded the Nobel Prize over Schatz. The prejudice here was not that Schatz was a woman but that he was not initially the bigger shot. Again here, every inequity generated by a prejudice is worth being fought against and I am so glad Schatz opened his mouth.

    It is legitimate to try and be heard when something unfair happens to oneself, which has nothing to do with whining.

    Marie Curie (for the first Nobel Prize, only Becquerel and Pierre Curie were initially nominated), Lise Meitner, Jocelyn Bell, the history of science is full of examples of women (and men) who have been wronged by unscrupulous collaborators, and/or the Nobel committee’s sexism. If the Nobel comittee was able to fall into those pits, why not the Pritzker Prize comittee? I think it is at least worth the thought.

    You write that you are “tired of all these sexist justifications”. But who cares? Is this debate really about you? Or is it about people who have been robbed of their work/discoveries because of individual and/or collective prejudices?

    • Concerned Citizen

      The same could be said of you. Who cares for all your sexist notions? We have all grown past those throwbacks to the sixties. Hopefully you will catch up with us.

    • Concerned Citizen

      The great ones have no need to appeal for themselves. Their work does all the speaking for them.

  • http://www.newsunsetpersonalcare.com/ New Sunset Care

    In addition to the recognition, what exactly do people get? As their prize, I mean?

  • Sol

    Well Zaha should call her partner Patrick Schumacher as joint laureate, who is pretty much the mastermind behind Zaha’s form.

  • Disappointed

    Dear Zaha,

    As a Jury member that awarded the Pritzker to Wang Shu in 2012, why did you not stand up for his wife Lu Wenyu to receive the prize as well?

    Seems to be all talk and no action with you.

    Disappointed.

  • Seriously?

    I worked at Jean Nouvel for a short time. I demand to be honoured retroactively with a Pritzker for work done before my time!

  • enough is enough

    Who would have ever heard of Denise Scott Brown had it not been for Robert Venturi? All these wives know who is the actual designer and the actual brain behind such husband/wife teams. At least most of these wives the world around, and not only the USA, England and France, are wise enough to acknowledge why their names are up there. Anyhow, enough is enough! The Pritzker and all such awards ought to go to just one person.

    • freek

      Massive wall!

  • Chris Rock

    “Nobody give a f— about daddy!
    Nobody says thanks daddy for knocking out this rent!
    Thanks for these lights!
    All he gets is the big piece of chicken.”

  • Man

    Maybe this is a product of more women being at Harvard GSD, while men are getting out of architecture.

  • Ronnette

    Should we change the Pritzker to the Mister Prize? Architecture has rarely been created by a sole visionary. To negate the contributions of Dennis Scott Brown and Lu Wenyu is altering history in the making and perpetuating a male-centric view that is just not an accurate reflection of contributions to the field of architecture. The Pritzker may be irrelevant. Credit and attribution is not always black and white.

  • dan

    Robert Venturi seems to be quite slient on the issue. I wonder what he thinks. Surely, he would be the best person to judge. Or maybe the silence speaks for itself?

  • bham

    Please stop involving misogyny, women’s rights and inequality. This has nothing to do with gender. If DSB was a male partner of the firm this would not have been an issue. We should all just give respespect where it is due.

  • SebH

    Similar examples of the above problem include Charles and Ray Eames (the latter only got recognition for her significant contribution after Charles had passed away) and Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich (again, she was responsible for most of the furniture design including the Barcelona Chair) but to this day she doesn’t get mentioned by the official manufacturer Knoll, despite strong evidence of her contribution.

  • DH

    The loudest promoter of DSB should have been RV, did he bring this up upon his winning the prize in ’91? Yes, she should be acknowledged for her influence as I suspect she is his biggest influence, the problem is that Mr. Venturi has been mum on this issue the whole time.

  • what??

    For 22 Years they still work together and are husband and wife… and this issue is still inside her mind?

    What a painful life both of you have. Great architects, it’s a pity. IMHO being an good architect is not only about winning a Pritzker Prize right? Being a good couple and working together is far beyond this Pritzker Prize thing.