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Robert Venturi and Rem Koolhaas Side with Denise Scott Brown on Pritzker Debate

Robert Venturi has joined nearly 4,000 advocates in the call to retrospectively acknowledge Denise Scott Brown as a joint Pritzker Prize laureate, stating: “Denise Scott Brown is my inspiring and equal partner.”

His support was then quickly followed by Rem Koolhaas, who stated: “I totally support this action. The fact that one of the most creative and productive partnerships we have ever seen in architecture was separated rather than celebrated by a prize has been an embarrassing injustice which it would be great to undo.”

More updates after the break...

Robert Venturi outside Las Vegas in 1966; photograph from the Archives of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown © Frank Hanswijk
Robert Venturi outside Las Vegas in 1966; photograph from the Archives of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown © Frank Hanswijk

Since Brown’s call on Pritzker to “salute the notion of joint creativity”, thousands of supporters, including architects Zaha Hadid, Farshid Moussavi and Hani Rashid, have passionately joined her cause. However, as in all debates, there is more than one side to the argument. 

In an 1991 NYTimes “note to the editor” titled Robert Venturi; No Architect Is an Island, a reader calls for Pritzker to re-evaluate their selection criteria, stating: “The Pritzker committee and Mr. Goldberger both mention Denise Scott Brown in passing, but the effect of this name-dropping is more chilling than reassuring. Her work is presented as a footnote to Mr. Venturi's and, in the process, a 30-year collaboration is eradicated. By promoting this type of omission, the Pritzker committee and The Times architecture critic perpetuate a long-standing tradition: the romantic myth of the hero-architect.”

In response, Paul Goldberger replied: “I find it absurd to suggest that, by virtue of its decision to award the Pritzker Prize to Venturi alone, the Pritzker jury has reduced Venturi's long and fruitful collaboration with Denise Scott Brown to a mere "footnote." Scott Brown is both the presiding partner and the guiding theorist for planning and urban-design work at the office of Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates, and her essential role in 20th-century planning as both practitioner and thinker has been well documented in my writings and elsewhere.

“But if few have contributed as much as she has in this area, it does not follow from this that all of the work of Robert Venturi is equally the product of collaboration. As I took it, the Pritzker Prize was awarded largely for Venturi's architectural designs, which are rather more his own, and in recognition of the extraordinary influence of the ideas set out in his very first book, "Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture," of which he was the sole author. To honor Robert Venturi need hardly be taken as a slight to Denise Scott Brown.”

Although an overwhelming amount of support seems to be in Brown’s favor, we are curious to know where our readers stand. Please share you thoughts in the comment section below. 

Cite:Karissa Rosenfield. "Robert Venturi and Rem Koolhaas Side with Denise Scott Brown on Pritzker Debate" 04 Apr 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed . <http://www.archdaily.com/355253/robert-venturi-and-rem-koolhaas-side-with-denise-scott-brown-on-pritzker-debate/>