Denise Scott Brown Demands Recognition from Pritzker

© Frank Hanswijk

During a speech at the AJ Women in Architecture luncheon in London last week, postmodern icon Denise Scott Brown requested to be acknowledged retrospectively for her role in Robert Venturi’s 1991 Pritzker Prize, describing Pritzker’s inability to acknowledge her involvement as “very sad”.

Although at the time of the award Brown had co-partnered their practice Venturi Scott Brown and Associates for over 22 years and played a critical role in the evolution of architectural theory and design alongside Venturi for the over 30 years, as well as co-authored the transformative 1970’s book Learning from Las Vegas, her role as “wife” seemed to have trumped her role as an equal partner when the Pritzker jury chose to only honor her husband, Venturi.

More information and an online petition after the break…

As reported by the Architect’s Journal, Brown stated: “They owe me not a Pritzker Prize, but a Pritzker inclusion ceremony. Let’s salute the notion of joint creativity.”

Unsurprisingly, since Brown’s speech many have expressed their support, exclaiming there should have been two winners in 1991 and demanding that Pritzker acknowledges Brown as a joint winner. Hundreds of supporters have even signed a petition in her honor (sign here!).

Throughout Pritzker’s history, only two joint prizes have ever been awarded: Swiss architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron in 2001 and SANAA male-female duo Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa in 2010. However, Pritzker was faced criticism last year (2012) for choosing to award Wang Shu and not his wife Lu Wenyu, who co-founded their firm Amateur Architecture Studio alongside Shu in 1997.

Cite: Rosenfield, Karissa. "Denise Scott Brown Demands Recognition from Pritzker" 29 Mar 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 30 May 2015. <>
  • Michael

    Good for her! This snub remains one of the most shamefully misogynistic episodes in recent architectural memory. Let us hope that the Pritzker Foundation responds favorably to this. It’s about damn time.

  • Wang Yixuan

    I support Denise for the reason that she is another talented woman architect,and she tried something for what she deserve

    • 流年之觞

      Are you Chinese?My QQ 1284549157 I go here first. I want find some friends.

  • Not JV

    Architecture is such a silly endeavor.

  • Philip

    Can we be permitted to start a on-line petition on archdaily to to Pritzker for this glaring omission and injustice, this is 2013 after all nobody should have to run in front of a horse to gain equality and recognition

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  • Johannas

    I worked for Renzo Piano. I DEMAND recognition from the Pritzker organization for this glaring omission of my work.

  • saturn ranch

    The pritzker has become more and more irrelevant each year.

  • Josh

    I do not think Pritzker has to do anything. In all the other awards programs, (the Oscars, for instance) they don’t bother recognizing the whole team, just the leader. We all know the “best director” relied on many people to get the award. Most recipients are quick to try and include as many people as they can. There’s an understanding that if you supported someone who gets an award a little piece of that award is yours.

    • archi

      Herzog and de Meuron?
      Sejima and Nishizawa?

    • Alex

      Josh, by suggesting that Denise was not “the leader,” and rather one of “many people” instrumental to Venturi, you clearly have no idea what you’re talking about. Her and Bob are equal partners at VSBA, and anyone (like me) who has had the privilege of seeing them lecture together know that she is every bit the intellectual and talented architect that he is. Not to mention, outside of VSBA, Denise is a prolific writer and her theories on populist urbanism, communication, and symbolism inspired an entire generation of architects.

      The Pritzker people have had over 20 years to do something about this and have done nothing. “Demand” is the least Denise could do, and we owe her our support.

  • Maria Rubert

    Congratulations Denise!. How can we Help?

  • espacement

    Man up Robert and give Denise the medal or give it back to Pritziker

    • Laszlo Kovacs

      I don’t think he has the integrity to give back a pritzker. I don’t think any architect does as a matter of fact. getting exposure is vital to staying in business as an architect and turning down a pritzker prize is a huge publicity mistake. Lets face it, if Venturi had any integrity at all he would not have accepted the prize without his wife being awarded too.

      • Sean

        Lets be real for a second. The publicity aspect of his award from 20 something years ago is non existent. Pretty sure that the audacity (however authentic or sincere its reasoning) of returning a Pritzker, would generate far more publicity than his continuing to hold onto it.

  • Justin

    Ironically, Denise Scott Brown is still portrayed in the background of the photograph, behind Robert Venturi. I am very confused from this story.

    • Helen

      In the background, and out of focus!

  • FRM

    The basis of Venturi winning the Pritzker was the Vanna Venturi House and the Guild House. These two projects, together with Complexity and Contradiction, changed the course of architecture. His subsequent work with Denise Scott Brown was not as important at best, and inconsequential at worst. I think Pritzker got it right.

  • Jim

    LOL, there are so many architects who deserve a Pritzker before her who will never get one. And now she’s gone and made herself a clown. Sounds about right.

  • Ted

    The Pritzker is for great built work, not just theory. If it were for theory, many others would need to have the award before this woman. Her built work isn’t nearly good enough.

  • Elliot

    No way should she receive a Pritzker. If she gets one, then Patrik Schumacher at Zaha’s office would need to get one, and then every one of the people behind these famous architects who are actually their “partners” and who actually develop much if not most of the theory behind the work would need to get one. Can’t happen. Evidently she thinks she’s special, but she’s not. Every famous architect has someone like her, they always have. But their names don’t go on the prizes. We can’t start making special exceptions for people like her who have sour grapes in their golden years and regret not striking out on their own. She made her bed. There are hundreds if not thousands of people in her position who instead have the integrity to check their egos at the door and keep em checked.

  • Sarah

    Then I guess John Rauch should get it before her, seeing as how he was Venturi’s partner before her and her name wasn’t even over the door until 1989, long after any of their work was particularly relevant. Some of their most important work was done before she even married Venturi and therefore became a member of the firm. How many famous architects have wives who are integral to the firm? All of them? Pretty much. Are their names on the Pritzker prizes? No, they aren’t. So until they are, neither is Brown.

  • Patricia

    And for her next act, Brown will demand that Hillary Clinton be listed retroactively as President of the US, because you know, she’s a woman and unfair and stuff!

  • Shawna

    She wasn’t even a true partner until 1989, and that was her husband’s decision to wait until then, so blame him, if anyone. There were plenty of people involved with the important early research and built work, not just her. Heck, they used their students’ work to write Learning From…, so give their students the Pritzker – the helped just as much if not more than Brown to produce what made Venturi relevant and important. She stayed on and become Venturi’s partner after the firm became less relevant in part because she was his wife. No, I’m afraid only the partners during the period of important work should get the Pritzker, and that wasn’t Brown, it was Rauch, if anyone. Some research assistant can’t start working at a firm, marry the head, and decades later eventually become partner because nobody else is left at a dying firm, and then claim they deserve the Pritzker too over everyone else who was partner before. But that’s essentially what Brown did and is doing. And that’s ridiculous. Sure she was important, but so are lots of people who worked for Venturi and were partners with Venturi.

  • Will

    Go back to the kitchen Denise

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  • Angel

    It didn’t seem to bother her 22 years ago when the prize was awarded. Why make such a fuss now? And what does Robert have to say about it?

    • Natalia K

      Robert has spoken positively in support!

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  • HD

    Again, it would be great to hear how Mr. Venturi feels about this, how he and she both frame the dynamics of their relationship both professional and personal. This omission it has to be said, should have been addressed by Robert Venturi at the time of the award. A cynical person may see this as an attempt to reignite interest in their office. That said Mrs. Scott Brown is certainly an influence on the work and the PM movement historically. The sad truth is that both camps (Pritzker/VSBA) should have rectified (or at least clarified) this way back when.

  • John Crubaugh

    Denise making her last stand like it always was