Where Are the Women? Measuring Progress on Gender in Architecture

Courtesy of

Today is American architect Denise Scott Brown’s 83rd birthday. It is no secret that the woman has made an indelible mark on architectural history and has significantly advanced the role of women in architecture, though many would argue that her success hasn’t fully been accredited.

In light of Brown’s success and birthday, we would like to share some fascinating statistics presented by Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) that measure the progress on gender in architecture. According to the report, women make up 51% of the 316 million people residing in the US, however only 25% of the 193,000 registered architects are women. This presents the question, “Where are all the women?”

The statistics on US women in architecture, after the break.

Happy Birthday Robert Venturi

© Denise Scott Brown

Robert Venturi, the architect famous for “less is a bore,” turns 89 today. Venturi started his firm in 1964 and ran it with his wife and partner Denise Scott Brown from 1967 until 2012. Today the Pritzker Prize winner’s legacy lives on as the firm continues under the name VSBA (Venturi Scott Brown Associates).

The co-author of Learning From Las Vegas and Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, Venturi is one of the most recognized postmodern theorists of the 20th century. Today, as Robert Venturi turns 89, take a look at a few of his famous works on ArchDaily. Also, make sure to read his invaluable thoughts, opinions and theories on the architectural profession, which still have significance today.

AJ’s Women in Architecture Survey Reveals Discrimination and a Pronounced Pay Gap

Denise Scott-Brown in Las Vegas. Image © Frank Hanswijk

Following a year of high-profile debates surrounding , the results from the Architects’ Journal (AJ) third annual survey entitled Women in Architecture has been revealed. According to the AJ, “two thirds of women in architecture have suffered sexual discrimination at work, an eight point increase since the survey began in 2011″, and “88% of women respondents believe that having children puts women at a disadvantage in architecture.” Even though women in architecture believe that they are paid equally to men, they can in fact “earn as much as £10,000 ($16,500) less than their male counterparts.” More, after the break.

Denise Scott Brown: A Must-Read Interview

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

Designers & Books editors Stephanie Salomon and Steve Kroeter sat down with Denise Scott Brown for a conversation centered around the seminal work penned by Scott Brown, Robert Venturi, and Steven Izenour in 1972. The must-read interview reveals some fantastic insight into Scott Brown’s personal and professional life – her unending love of neon (one which led her to Las Vegas), her distaste for the “tyranny of white paper” (which gravely afflicted the design of the first edition of Learning from Las Vegas),as well as her – rather surprising – position on awarding group creativity. Read the full interview here and check out some select quotes from the interview, after the break.

The Indicator: Why 2013 was Denise Scott Brown’s Year

Courtesy of Plataforma Arquitectura

A lot of things happened in 2013. Zaha was in the news about every other week. She was copied in China and then accused of designing a giant vagina in Qatar. Rem’s son is producing a documentary about his dad. We lost Prentice Women’s Hospital. We almost lost the American Folk Art Museum. There were a lot of stellar exhibitions and one that took things On the Road. It was the year of high-rise after high-rise, with Rem changing the game yet again by lifting the podium off the ground and sticking to his formal guns, refusing to indulge in curvy shapes.

Things at Architecture for Humanity were shaken up with the departure of co-founders Cameron Sinclair and Kate Stohr. Resiliency became the new sustainability. China suddenly became defined less for its adventurous architecture and urbanism and more for its darker, smoggier flipside. My hometown, Los Angeles got a few more bike lanes, some big plans for its concrete river, plus a new Bloomberg-esque mayor with attendant sustainability tsar. There were people complaining about architecture and telling us why they left the profession. Kanye got attacked for daring to tell us why he likes architecture, and then architecture loved talking about Kanye for weeks on end until we just wanted architecture to shut up about Kanye. Poor Kanye. There are so many things we could say were key in 2013. It’s been a great year. And there were also a lot of fantastic buildings.

But in terms of issues, what really stands out from 2013 (right up there with “resilience”) is equality – and nothing represented this better than Denise Scott Brown v. Pritzker Prize. In arguing that she has a rightful and equal place alongside husband Robert Venturi, she (along with Harvard GSD’s Women in Design organization) woke a sleeping giant—but not for the first time.

On Gender, Genius, and Denise Scott Brown

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

“In the 10 years I’ve been running my architectural practice, I [...] have gotten accustomed to people assuming that my male employees — whether younger or older — are the lead architects who will be making final decisions. Yet this time a lingering frustration colored the rest of my day, a sense that while feminism has made significant progress on a conscious level, little change has trickled down into the unconscious of our culture.” Check out the rest of Esther Sperber’s column for Lilith, in which she details the past travails of female architects (particularly Denise Scott Brown’s), and their future mission, here.

Necessary Hauntings: Why Architecture Must Listen to its Forgotten Women

Courtesy of , via Metropolis Mag

This article, by Alexandra Lange, originally appeared on Metropolis Magazine as “Architecture’s Lean In Moment.”

“Women are the ghosts of modern architecture, everywhere present, crucial, but strangely invisible,” writes historian Beatriz Colomina in “With, Or Without You,” an essay in the Museum of Modern Art’s 2010 catalog, Modern Women. “Architecture is deeply collaborative, more like moviemaking than visual art, for example. But unlike movies, this is hardly ever acknowledged.”

Colomina goes on to chronicle the history of modernism’s missing women, acknowledged, if at all, as working “with” Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Alvar Aalto, or Charles Eames. To put yourself in the shoes of Lilly Reich, Charlotte Perriand, and Aino Aalto, simply watch the cringe-worthy video of the Eameses on the Home show in 1956; Ray['s] introduced as the “very capable woman behind him” who enters after Charles has bantered with host Arlene Francis.

This spring, these ghosts came back to haunt us: Arielle Assouline-Lichten, a student at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard, read excerpts from an interview with in which she mentioned her own absence from partner Robert Venturi’s 1991 Pritzker Prize. “They owe me not a Pritzker Prize but a Pritzker inclusion ceremony,” Scott Brown said. “Let’s salute the notion of joint creativity.”

Read all of Alexandra Lange’s essay, after the break…

Forgetting Women Architects / KCRW Design & Architecture

Image by Tom Morris, March 2012, based on the “We Can Do It!” poster created by J. Howard Miller in 1942 for the U.S. War Production Coordinating Committee, as part of the homefront mobilization campaign during World War II. [Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, via Design Observer
Today, KCRW’s Design & Architecture will air a podcast on the topic of “Forgetting Women Architects.” The show will feature ArchDaily columnist Guy Horton‘s interview with Denise Scott Brown as well as a conversation based on Despina Stratigakos’ fantastic article for Design Observer, Unforgetting Women Architects: From the Pritzker to Wikipedia.” In the article, Stratigakos describes how women continue to be edited out of architecture history and calls for us to “unforget” them by including their stories in online resources such as wikipedia. You can listen to the podcast here.

AIA Honors Joint Creativity by Revising Gold Medal Award Criteria

Perot Museum of Nature and Science designed by the 2013 Winner: Thom Mayne of Morphosis

In the wake of Pritzker’s refusal to retroactively acknowledge Denise Scott Brown’s role in Robert Venturi’s 1991 Pritzker Prize, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Board of Directors have voted to expand the prestigious Gold Medal award’s criteria to include either an individual or two individuals working together in a collaborative partnership. In order to be considered, partners must have created a singular body of distinguished architectural work.

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…

Twitterverse responds to Pritzker’s Rejection of Denise Scott Brown Petition

We have rounded up some of the reactions to this afternoon’s news that would not retroactively receive recognition for the Pritzker Prize that her husband, , won in 1991.

 

 

 

Read more tweets after the break…

52 Years Later, A Would-Be Urban Planner Responds to Harvard’s Sexist Letter

Courtesy of Phyllis Richman. Published June 6, 2013 on The Washington Post.

In 1961, Phyllis Richman, a student at Brandeis , was considering applying to the Harvard Graduate School of Design’s Department of City and Regional Planning. The response from Professor Doebele, which you can read above, was to question the validity/practicality of her desire to enter into higher , being, as she would surely be, a future wife and mother.

While today it sounds almost quaint in its blatantly sexist assumptions, Ms. Richman’s letter remains, unfortunately, all too relevant. In her article for The Washington Post, Richman says: “To the extent, Dr. Doebele, that your letter steered me away from city planning and opened my path to writing [a career Richman later describes as "remarkably well-suited to raising children"], one might consider that a stroke of luck. I’d say, though, that the choice of how to balance family and graduate school should have been mine.”

She’s absolutely right, of course; the decision was hers and hers alone to make. However, there’s no avoiding that Richman eventually found success in a job that allowed her to live flexibly as a professional and parent. How many women, and for that matter men, can claim that of architecture? How many architects are convinced, just like Ms. Richman, to pursue success in other, more flexible careers?

More about Richman’s letter, and where Denise Scott Brown comes in, after the break…

The Scott Brown Petition & Women’s Role in Architecture

via Plataforma Arquitectura

The petition demanding that architect Denise Scott Brown be retroactively acknowledged as a joint recipient of the 1991 Pritzker Prize has surpassed 12,000 signatures. Notable supporters include past Pritzker Prize recipients Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas and Scott Brown’s own husband and partner of 40 years, Robert Venturi. The success of this Change.org campaign, fueled by two young women of the Harvard GSD‘s Women In Design club, is larger than the one female architect it aims to honor – it is a campaign to rethink the difficult and often unjust position of the woman in architecture.

Read more after the break.

Pritzker’s Challenge: Recognition in the Age of Creative Partnerships

Wang Shu receiving his Pritzker Award in 2012. Oddly, his wife and co-partner, Lu Wenyu, was not acknowledged.

The had idealistic beginnings: recognising achievement within architecture, a profession that had long lost its status in public opinion.  Pritzker ‘seamed’ this fragmentation, celebrated the architect and broadcast this stellar contribution to society, as a creative, a singular author whose uniqueness set him/her apart from a field of practitioners.

The Prize has since assumed a role of gatekeeper to the ‘starchitect’ it once helped define. While it is inspiring that architecture as a profession has reaffirmed its status and cultural significance, The Pritzker places itself on an archi-centric proscenium, running the risk of being consumed by a synthetic reality within the profession. If Pritzker and other similar models of recognition are to evolve, they must illuminate widespread transformations in practice and emphasise the changing of the guard within the profession.

Firstly, should be recognised retrospectively. Opinion does not change facts.

Read more about the (d)evolution of the Pritzker Prize, after the break…

The Indicator: The Pritzker’s Better Half

and , Las Vegas, Strip Message Analysis

There’s been a lot of buzz going around about the Pritzker jury dissing Denise Scott Brown, wife and co-partner to Robert Venturi. Back in 1991 they awarded the prize to Mr. Venturi, singular…not plural to include his better half. Seems they, a different jury, also dissed Wang Shu’s wife and co-partner, Lu Wenyu way back in 2012 by granting the prestigious prize to Mr. Wang without acknowledging who holds up “the other half of the sky”, as they say in Mandarin.

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

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

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 , 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.”

New updates after the break…

Pritzker Responds To Denise Scott Brown Controversy

© Frank Hanswijk

An intense gender debate has been making headlines after called for Pritzker to “salute the notion of joint creativity” and retrospectively acknowledge her role in Robert Venturi’s 1991 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 Women 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.

More on the controversy after the break…

Denise Scott Brown Demands Recognition from Pritzker

© Frank Hanswijk

During a speech at the AJ 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…