Pritzker Prize jury won’t retroactively honor Denise Scott Brown

Architects Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi in La Jolla in 2002.
(Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

Organizers of the Pritzker Architecture Prize — the highest award in the field of architecture — have turned down a request to retroactively honor Denise Scott Brown, whose design partner and husband Robert Venturi received the award in 1991.

Peter Palumbo, the current chair of the Pritzker jury, said in a letter that “Pritzker juries, over time, are made up of different individuals.... A later jury cannot reopen or second-guess the work of an earlier jury, and none has ever done so.”

The letter, dated June 14, was addressed to the leaders of a group known as Women in Design, at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. The group launched an online petition this year in support of a retroactive Pritzker for Scott Brown. The petition has received more than 17,000 signatures and has been supported by some prominent architects, including Venturi and Rem Koolhaas.


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The petition states that Scott Brown’s role as “wife” appears “to have trumped her role as an equal partner when the Pritzker jury chose to only honor her husband, Venturi.”

Thursday’s letter from the Pritzker jury has been posted in its entirety on the site of the Architectural Record, a monthly publication. In the letter, Palumbo said that Scott Brown is still eligible for future Pritzker Prizes. He also acknowledged a historical gender bias in the architecture profession.

“Where this occurs, we must, and we do, take such matters into account,” he wrote.

Venturi and Scott Brown were founding partners of the Philadelphia architecture firm Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates. Venturi has since retired, while Scott Brown continues to write. The couple have created a website dedicated to their work.


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