The Pritzker Prize jury announced late Friday that they will not be retroactively including Denise Scott Brown in partner and husband Robert Venturi’s 1991 award. “A later jury cannot re-open, or second guess the work of an earlier jury, and none has ever done so,” wrote 2013 jury chairman Peter Palumbo, in a letter to the two Harvard Graduate School of Design students who started a petition in March to “recognize Denise Scott Brown for her work in Robert Venturi’s 1991 prize.”
Following Scott Brown’s simple request that the Pritzker jury “salute the notion of joint creativity” by retroactively acknowledging her as Venturi’s partner, GSD student group Women in Design galvanized 17,377 signatories (including the likes of Zaha Hadid and Paola Antonelli) in support. While Pritzker executive director Martha Thorne had vowed to “refer this important matter to the current jury at their next meeting,” Palumbo’s letter permanently shutters the possibility that the inclusion ceremony hopefuls had envisioned will ever take place.
“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,” Palumbo’s letter continues, assuring that “Ms. Scott Brown remains eligible for the Pritzker Award.” The feeble gesture of kindness rings hollow, likely originating in political correctness rather than genuine concern about the achievement of female architects in an industry where they have long been underrepresented. The fact of the matter is that, while Scott Brown continues to teach, it’s unlikely that an architect no longer actively seeking commissions for new buildings would take architecture’s top honors. Future Pritzker juries might want to start by acting on Palumbo’s paean to gender equality: in the prize’s 34-year history, only two female architects have taken home the coveted award.
— Anna Kats
Image via Women’s Voices for Change