Pritzker Rejects Petition for Denise Scott Brown’s Retroactive Award

© Frank Hanswijk

The has finally released their official statement in response to the petition Harvard graduate students Arielle Assouline-Lichten and Caroline James wrote, proposing that retroactively receive recognition for the Pritzker Prize that her husband, Robert Venturi, won in 1991.

Lord Palumbo, the Chair of The Pritzker Architecture Prize, has responded that this would be impossible due to the way that Pritzker Juries deliberate: “Pritzker juries, over time, are made up of different individuals, each of whom does his or her best to find the most highly qualified candidate. A later jury cannot re-open, or second guess the work of an earlier jury, and none has ever done so.”

The letter goes on to suggest that Ms. Scott Brown is, however, still eligible for a Pritzker of her own; it also thanks Assouline-Lichten and James for “calling directly to our attention a more general problem, namely that of assuring women a fair and equal place within the profession. [...] one particular role that the Pritzker Jury must fulfill, in this respect, is that of keeping in mind the fact that certain recommendations or discussions relating to architectural creation are often a reflection of particular times or places, which may reflect cultural biases that underplay a woman’s role in the creative process. Where this occurs, we must, and we do, take such matters into account.”

Read the full letter, after the break…

A Letter from the Chair of the 2013 Jury of The Pritzker Architecture Prize on Behalf of the Jury 

June 14, 2013

Ms. Arielle Assouline-Lichten

Ms. Caroline James

Women in Design

Harvard Graduate School of Design

Cambridge, MA 02138

Dear Arielle Assouline-Lichten and Caroline James,

Thank you for sending your petitions and letters, and those of others, about Ms. Denise Scott Brown and the Pritzker Architecture Prize. Insofar as you have in mind a retroactive award of the prize to Ms. Scott Brown, the present jury cannot do so. Pritzker juries, over time, are made up of different individuals, each of whom does his or her best to find the most highly qualified candidate. A later jury cannot re-open, or second guess the work of an earlier jury, and none has ever done so.

Let us assure you, however, that Ms. Scott Brown remains eligible for the Pritzker Award. That award is given on the basis of an architect’s total body of built work. Ms. Scott Brown has a long and distinguished career of architectural accomplishment. It will be up to present and future juries to determine who among the many architects practicing throughout the world receives future awards. Not every knowledgeable observer always agrees with the jury’s selection. But the jury will continue to do its best to select solely upon the basis of the quality of the architect’s record.

That said, we should like to thank you for calling directly to our attention a more general problem, namely that of assuring women a fair and equal place within the profession. To provide that assurance is, of course, an obligation embraced by every part of the profession, from the schools that might first encourage students to enter the profession to the architectural firms that must facilitate the ability of women to fulfill their potential as architects. We believe that one particular role that the Pritzker Jury must fulfill, in this respect, is that of keeping in mind the fact that certain recommendations or discussions relating to architectural creation are often a reflection of particular times or places, which may reflect cultural biases that underplay a woman’s role in the creative process. Where this occurs, we must, and we do, take such matters into account.

Your communications remind us of this obligation, and we appreciate your sending them. Insofar, however, as they ask us to reopen the decision-making process of a previous jury, we cannot do so.

Yours sincerely,

Lord Peter Palumbo, Chair, On behalf of the Jury of the 2013 Pritzker Architecture Prize

The 2013 Jury of The Pritzker Architecture Prize is Lord Peter Palumbo (Chair), Alejandro Aravena, Stephen Breyer, Yung Ho Chang, Kristin Feireiss, Glenn Murcutt, and Juhani Pallasmaa, Ratan N. Tata. Martha Thorne is Executive Director.

Jury members serve for multiple years to assure a balance between current and new members and are entrusted with selecting the laureate each year. No outside observers or members of the Pritzker family are present during jury deliberations and voting. The international jury members are recognized professionals in their own fields of architecture, business, education, publishing, and culture. 

Cite: Quirk, Vanessa. "Pritzker Rejects Petition for Denise Scott Brown’s Retroactive Award" 16 Jun 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 26 May 2015. <>
  • Ned Schneebly

    Good for them. People turned it into a gender issue when it never was- and they stood their ground.

    • Laszlo Kovacs

      couldn’t agree more. Denise is making the prize seem more important than it really is. like she HAS to have it otherwise there is no justice or something. she is very distinguished internationally as an architect and the fact that she hasn’t received the prize doesn’t change that.

  • Brian

    This is and never was a gender issue. This is about rightfully undoing a wrong that neglected to celebrate collaboration. It is shameful that they refuse to change.

  • Hotel Sphinx

    Absolutely shameful.

    It is has been clear to many of us for some time now that the Pritzker Prize, and the Howard Roark image of architecture it promotes, has lost all relevancy. This decision, by which the Pritzker board refuses to amend its blatantly misogynistic mistake, is its nail in the coffin.

    ArchDaily – you can help this. Remove the “Prizker Prize” link in your website’s heading, and the icon of its medal next to stories about its recipients. It’s time to forget about this prize and the self-congratulatory relics who award it.

    • Laszlo Kovacs

      in that case then email denise and tell her to stop making such a fuss about the prize. she’s adding to its prestige as well.

      • Laszlo Kovacs

        Venturi should have never accepted the prize to begin with.

      • no one

        Venturi wanted to reject the prize but it was $100,000 at a time when VBSA was not at its prolific peak.

      • wasz

        but he didn’t, end of story

  • Bill

    Thank God this is over……….and that the Pritkzers kept their cool through it all. Hopefully the whole issue with the Crafts Museum will come to a similar sensible ending and that no one has to succumb, through mass media onslaught, to someone’s fanciful thinking and irrational demand that what they personally perceive as ‘architecture’ is indeed hat and must be preserved beyond all reason and legalities.

    • No One

      Yes, oh thank God that you won’t be kept up at night anymore by what Other People Believe In.

  • FRM

    I think the issue has been misrepresented. This wasn’t about sexism, it was about collaboration. The firm was Venturi Rauch Scott Brown up until about a year before Venturi won in 1991. John Rauch was more involved in the lion’s share of the work that was the basis of the Prize. So with all due respect to Ms. Scott Brown, her argument lends itself to Rauch being awarded the prize more so than herself.

  • Eric in Colorado

    I propose that all Pritzker Awards be retroactively given to the named recipients AND the full staffs they had working for them up to and at the time of the awards, including the interns and friends with whom they had dinner and conversations about their projects.

    • Laszlo Kovacs

      You raise a great point. What’s so bad about awarding prizes to firms instead of individual architects? Why not just give the award to Amateur Architecture Studio or OMA instead of giving it to Wang Shu or Rem Koolhaas.

      • js

        There wouldn’t have been an Amateur Architecture Studio or OMA if not for the talent, vision and abilities of Wang Shu and Rem Koolhaas. Yes, others have and continue to contribute in meaningful and significant ways, but ultimately someone initiates, leads and directs this.

  • persian

    This is madness!

  • aml

    The prize was awarded for the intellectual production that was the result of collaborative work between Denise Scott-Brown and Robert Venturi–and Venturi has himself said so. not sure why any of the commenters above feel they know more about this than the people actually involved. Scott-Brown’s role can easily be discerned by reading her individual pieces, which show how her own vision combined with Venturi’s to produce their work. I am amazed at the aggressive nature of many of the comments above–she herself never asked to be given the prize, only to be recognized for it. Why does that bother you guys so much?

    • Laszlo Kovacs

      because venturi accepted the award and now 20 years later is saying that it was wrong. they’re hypocrites.

  • Nicole

    Glad the ego trip and pity party’s over. Now we can focus on better architects building today like Diebedo Francis Kere.

    Best comment I’ve read (from Dezeen):
    “Awkward… now even if she gets one in the future (I doubt..) it would feel more like a pity prize, than for all the good work she did before. Good lesson here, don’t ask for a prize, work for it, and if people don’t give you a prize for it? You win anyway, the prize is the work, creative process, interesting journery, design exploration, etc… not a medal or public flattery. Love it for the work not the trophies!”

    • Chauncey

      If you all weren’t so dense and set on splitting hairs, you’d realize that Denise has already won. Now the discussion is about collaboration, and the opinions about the outdated prestige of the pritzker is very public and being bolstered by laureates and world-famous architects alike.

      The party actually just started, and the Pritzker committee’s decision had no effect on it either way. You’re welcome.

  • Lane

    In a world obsessed with political correctness, the committee had the courage to do the right thing. Bravo.

    • Chauncey

      Ah, yes, so fierce and brave of these wealthy and politically connected white people to uphold the integrity of a bunch of dead jurors. Your priorities are spot on.

      • Lane

        If Denise were a Dennis, this issue would never have been raised…especially by Dennis.

      • Andy

        Denise is a wealthy, well connected white person…. Not sure race is the issue here…

    • Laszlo Kovacs

      yeah! put that nagging woman in her place!

  • Nicole

    I do think she’s a big loser for desperately wanting the award. Her begging for it so badly along with all the fuss it’s caused actually just shows how important this award is to the architectural profession.

    And it’s a good thing they stood their ground. Reversing the decision would have set a bad precedent and laid the groundwork for ridiculous retroactive campaigning in the future. Move on, Denise. You didn’t win. What about just asking the committee to honor another worthy female architect like Liz Diller? Instead, this sounds like a campaign for narcissism, instead of an argument for recognizing women and collaboration in architecture.

  • Nicole

    If she truly wanted to honor joint creativity, then she would have mentioned John Rauch. As such, her true intentions here are clear.

    • Chauncey

      Who knew ArchDaily was full of stodgy conservative pricks? Now I know.

      I think you’re actually the big loser. You completely missed the point. She never asked for the award. She does not want the Pritzker. She asked for a nondescript “inclusion ceremony.” Read all the way through an article about it, maybe.

      She wanted to make the issue about collaboration and sexism. It is, now. She wanted to call out Phillip Johnson (the first Laureate) for his role in making architecture awful for women. She did. She got all the who’s who behind her. Alright. She didn’t want the prize, she wanted to devalue the prize. And, it is now devalued! Mired in mild controversy forever. And a lot of us think it’s better off that way. You’re welcome.

      • Nicole

        Sure, Chauncey. Wonderful idea to bolster your argument by resorting to ad hominem attacks. Also, I don’t know about you, but “inclusion” means being recognized as a co-winner, meaning she shares Venturi’s prize, meaning she has a Pritzker with her name on it.

        As to devaluing the Pritzker Prize, what’s new? It happens every year. This will be old news by the time next year’s honoree is announced.

        So why is John Rauch conveniently left out of any discussion of this? Because dear Denise is a hypocrite and just desperate for attention.

        You’re welcome, too.

    • Chauncey

      Hey, you started with the “big loser” thing.

      Anyone who is looking just slightly past the technicality of the Pritzker win can see what’s going on here. And you have chosen to come down on the wrong side of history, so, you’ve got that going for you.

      • Nicole

        Clearly I was addressing Denise Scott Brown as the big loser and not you, so I don’t see the need for personal attacks. Why are you taking it so personally? And, really? “You started it”? Let’s stick to meaningful debate, please.

        The “right side” or “wrong side” of history will be determined by history itself and not some comment thread on Archdaily. Besides, struggling with thoughts about being on the right side of history isn’t what keeps me up at night.

        Rauch, Izenour, both sacrificed in the name of political correctness. I’ll be on Denise’s side if she asks that Rauch be awarded as well. Right now her argument just sounds like sour grapes and a case of too much self-importance.

  • Hammibale

    This problem, and others like it, could easily be avoided if all juries were instructed to give EVERY prize and EVERY award to Daniel and Nina Libeskind, as this pair of self-described geniuses believe they are due.

  • Jasmine

    Enough of this PC motivated crap. Keep going down this path and the next thing you know, awards will only be given to unwed lesbian black mothers who are in a wheelchair after serving in Iraq. Merit is Merit. All the rest is political whining masquerading as democracy. Get over it Denise. You kept your trap shut for 22 years. Leave it that way before you embarrass yourself further.

    • Nicole

      So long as she fails to mention Rauch or Izenour, she will never be a “winner”.

    • willa


  • Chauncey

    What is it with ArchDaily and bitter, hair-splitting whiners? The rest of the Arch popular websites at least have people on both sides of this issue. Is this the fox news of architecture?

    This isn’t about debating Denise’s merit, and there’s nothing PC about it. What is PC is protecting the “austerity” of some prize. If you want to be a purist about it, we could argue ad infinitum about each Laureate and his or her worth. Such debates are pointless.

    The problem is leaving it up to other people to tell you who’s Great in Architecture. Especially when those people are part of a long-standing pattern of intellectually abusive attitudes toward women. You can’t get around it. Phillip Johnson was a terrible antagonist to women (and gay, think of that!) and really the force behind the Pritzker’s inception. Colin Rowe called Denise a b*tch to her face.

    Any chance to take the Pritzker down a peg is valuable to those who are approaching these institutions critically. Real architecture is happening in the urban centers from experienced practitioners, and real critical culture is being grown at places like the GSD. The Pritzker is a popular outlet to extra-architectural culture and a lot of people don’t see its policies and attitudes as reflecting the reality of the profession. So they complain, and rightly so. Now a lot of people will look at the Pritzker with some trepidation.

    Seriously, deal with it. Denise has already won.

  • Vanessa Quirk

    I’d also like to point out that Ms. Scott Brown has not demanded a Pritzker. She admitted in an interview that she would appreciate an inclusion ceremony, to recognize the role she played in the work that her husband earned a Pritzker for. Not an actual award. Others – most notably the group of Women in Design at the Harvard GSD as well as the thousands who signed the petition on – are the ones demanding that she retroactively be given a Pritzker.

    • Chauncey

      Right, and people see this as an opportunity to quibble about the specific merit of Denise’s contribution to VSBA, completely failing to see that even if she’s wrong about that, she’s right about everything else. And that’s the cause, not whose name gets scratched into the trophy.

      First world problems: making sure legendary woman in 20th century architecture doesn’t get *too much* credit

      Real problems: women are actually treated like this

  • Eric in Colorado

    AND now the AIA has elected a woman as President for 2015. Coincidence?

  • kofi ofosu-ennin

    lets see how that turns out…

  • Enzo

    Lord Peter Palumbo? Is this for real?

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