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Pritzker jury says no to Scott Brown petition

Letter from jury chair Peter Palumbo says jury will not retroactively include Denise Scott Brown in the 1991 Pritzker Prize to Robert Venturi

In a letter addressed to petition authors Arielle Assouline-Lichten and Caroline James (see attached), Peter Palumbo, chair of the 2013 Pritzker Prize jury, said they could not ‘reopen the decision-making process of a previous jury,’ and so would not be considering extending the 1991 Pritzker award to Robert Venturi to include his collaborator Scott Brown.

The letter reads: ‘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.’

Palumbo stresses that Scott Brown remains eligible for the prize in her own right: ‘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.’

A later jury cannot re-open, or second guess the work of an earlier jury

Palumbo also thanks the authors of the petition, Harvard students Arielle Assouline-Lichten and Caroline James, for ‘calling directly to our attention a more general problem, namely that of assuring women a fair and equal place within the profession.’

Palumbo also says the jury will ‘keep in mind 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’

Inspired by an interview with Scott Brown recorded for the AJ Women in Architecture Luncheon 2013, the high-profile petition went on to receive nearly 17,000 signatures including Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas and Robert Venturi, and was covered widely by the press, including editorials in the New Yorker and the New York Times.

The 2013 Pritzker jury includes Alejandro Aravena, Stephen Breyer, Yung Ho Chang, Kristin Feireiss, Glenn Murcutt, Juhani Pallasmaa, Ratan Tata, with Peter Palumbo as chair. 

In an interview with the AJ, Martha Thorne, Executive Director of the Pritzker Prize said that although the jury would not be extending the prize to Scott Brown, she wanted to assure those that signed the petition that their voices had been heard, and that the petition had already changed the way the prize is run.

‘The proof is in the pudding, but we have already made small changes already, such as altering the wording on our website to read that the prize is for ‘a living architect/s’, showing that it can be given to more than one person.’

Thorne said while the jury felt they could not rewrite history by re-opening a past decision, the jury was keen to lay the foundations for a new future for the prize.

‘There isn’t a do-over, and when decisions are made, they are always in context. In hindsight, we may have made other decisions.’

‘I believe we are in a different time, and the issue of the rightful place of women in the profession must be addressed, from early education right up through to the firms that hire women.’

As part of this, Thorne said that she will be broadening her approach in the search for nominations for the prize. ‘This year there will certainly be a more intensive search, particularly in the field of women, recognising that we must seek out diversity and recognise collaboration.’

Thorne, who also sits on the jury of the AJ Women in Architecture Awards, said she phoned Scott Brown directly to notify her of the jury’s decision, as well as the authors of the petition, and that she urged Scott Brown to take a leadership role in ushering in a new era for women.

‘The only way we move forward is to find common ground,’ said Thorne. ‘So now begins the search for common ground.’

Thorne also said she hoped the petition, although focused around one person, would be ‘the rallying call that will force a shift, not only in architecture, but across sectors.’

Thorne said: ‘I hope the energy and passion in this petition can be used to effect real change in education, the profession, construction companies and collaborators. If it can start the ball rolling, then I think the petition will have been a success.’

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