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Pritzker Jury Denies Call for Award

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

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The jury for the coveted Pritzker Architecture Prize says its 1991 decision to honor architect Robert Venturi with an award and not his equal partner and collaborator Denise Scott Brown will not be revisited.

In a letter to two Harvard design graduate students behind a global online petition to have the 82-year-old architect’s contribution to the profession recognized retroactively by the Pritzker organization, the jury wrote, in part:

“Insofar as you have in mind a retroactive award of the prize to Ms. Scott Brown, the present jury cannot do so.”

Denise Scott Brown

Denise Scott Brown, now 82, has said the Pritzker organization owed her a ceremony 22 years after her husband received the award. A global petition to that affect received almost 18,000 signatures.

Commenting on the jury’s response, Scott Brown said, “They should go read the petition again,” according to an article in Architectural Record.

“We need something that says we realize this omission was bad, and a ceremony would show that our community values other ways of thinking. Otherwise the prize will go on being a sad old white man’s award,” she reportedly said.

Juries Change Each Year

Each year the Pritzker juries are made up of different individuals, the jury chair Peter Palumbo wrote.

“A later jury cannot re-open, or second guess the work of an earlier jury, and none has ever done so,” the jury said.

The Pritzker Award is given to a living architect/s for lifetime achievement to the profession. The award is often referred to as “the profession’s highest honor.”

The jury also stressed that Scott Brown remains eligible for a future Pritzker Award and further praised her body of work and architectural accomplishments.

‘General Problem’ Recognized

Additionally, the jury 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.”

Pritzker Architecture Prize
Hyatt Foundation

The Pritzker Architecture Prize was founded in 1979 by the late Jay A. Pritzker and his wife, Cindy. The Pritzker Laureate is chosen annually by a panel of independent jurors.

The Harvard Graduate School of Design students—Arielle Assouline-Lichten and Caroline James—initiated their petition after Scott Brown spoke out on the omission some 22 years after her husband received the prestigious honor.

“They owe me not a Pritzker Prize but a Pritzker inclusion ceremony,” the Philadelphia architect reportedly said at the Architects Journal Women in Architecture Luncheon in March.

“Let’s salute the notion of joint creativity,” she said.

Passion Fuels More Intense Search

The online petition on received nearly 18,000 signatures, including many past Pritzker Award winners.

Martha Thorne, Pritzker Prize executive director, told the Architects Journal that she hopes the “energy and passion” generated by the petition will “force a shift, not only in architecture, but across sectors.”

Robert Venturi and Scott Brown

Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown have been equal principals and collaborators in their practice Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates Inc. (now VSBA) for more than three decades. They also co-authored influential books on the practice, including Learning from Las Vegas in 1972.

She further told the news bureau that in looking for nominations for the 2014 prize, there will be a “more intensive search, particularly in the field of women, recognizing that we must seek out diversity and recognize collaboration.”


Tagged categories: Architects; Architectural history; Awards and honors; Color + Design; Design; Designers; Partnerships; Pritzker Architecture Prize

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