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Pritzker Responds To Denise Scott Brown Controversy

An intense gender debate has been making headlines after Denise Scott Brown called for Pritzker to “salute the notion of joint creativity” and retrospectively acknowledge her role in Robert Venturi’s 1991 Pritzker Prize during an AJ Women in Architecture luncheon in late March. Since, nearly 2,000 advocates have passionately rallied in Brown’s support by signing an online petition created by Harvard’s GSD Woman in Design Group. Among the signatures include architects Zaha Hadid, Farshid Moussavi and Hani Rashid, along with 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. 

Responding to the outrage, Martha Thorne, executive director of Pritzker Prize, promised to “refer this important matter to the current jury at their next meeting”, respectfully pointing out that this presents an “unusual situation” considering each Laureate is chosen annually by a panel of independent jurors who change over the years. 

At the time of Venturi’s selection, the jury consisted of J. Carter Brown (Chairman), Giovanni Agnelli, Ada Louise Huxtable, Ricardo Legorreta, Toshio Nakamura, Kevin Roche, Lord Rothschild, and Bill Lacy (Secretary to the Jury).

The current jury, whom just awarded Japanese architect Toyo Ito with the 2013 Pritzker Prize, includes Lord Palumbo (Chairman), Alejandro Aravena, Stephen Breyer, Yung Ho Chang, Glenn Murcutt, Juhani Pallasmaa, and Martha Thorne (Executive Director).

Although Denise Scott Brown's influence on the postmodern power couple’s success is undeniable, an interesting counterargument suggests that the basis of Venturi winning the Pritzker was the Vanna Venturi House (1964) and the Guild House (1964) - both completed before Denise joined the firm in 1969. "These two projects, together with Complexity and Contradiction (1966), changed the course of architecture,” stated one ArchDaily reader. 

These two projects aside, however, at the time of the award, Brown had been co-partner at Venturi Scott Brown and Associates for over 22 years and, alongside Venturi, had played a critical role in the evolution of architectural theory and design for over 30 years. In addition, she co-authored the seminal Learning from Las Vegas with Venturi and Steven Izenour in 1972.

In an interview with ArchDaily in 2011, Brown spoke of her frustration at the way her role is 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."

Cite:Karissa Rosenfield. "Pritzker Responds To Denise Scott Brown Controversy " 01 Apr 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed . <>