It all started with our interview with Scott Brown
Now over 5,000 people demand change, says Christine Murray
‘We need her side of the story on the Pritzker Prize,’ I said, as we made arrangements to film an address by Denise Scott Brown at her home in Philadelphia. A camera crew and journalist from New York would make the trip, after Scott Brown told us, with regrets, that she couldn’t attend our Women in Architecture luncheon (she had to be in Mexico at the time).
We knew that we needed to address the 1991 awarding of the Pritzker to Robert Venturi, without Scott Brown, especially as the Women in Architecture campaign is about equal recognition. We couldn’t interview Scott Brown and not bring up what has become a symbol of the silent role women have played in architecture.
So when Scott Brown didn’t bring it up in her speech, our journalist, architecture writer Gwen Webber, did. We got the raw footage back a couple of days later, and special projects editor Emily Booth was the first one to see the clip of Scott Brown speaking of her wish for a ‘Pritzker-inclusion ceremony’ - now available to view on our website.
Deputy editor Rory Olcayto, writing in his Black Box column on 19 March, then demanded recognition for Scott Brown. In the same issue and online, we ran a news story quoting Scott Brown and Olcayto’s call for the Pritzker to acknowledge its past mistake.
Little did we know the story would inspire a group of Harvard Students called Women in Design to start a petition. Now it has attracted more than 5,000 signatures from figures including Venturi himself (who writes: ‘Denise Scott Brown is my inspiring and equal partner’), Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Herzog and de Meuron (we’ve signed it, too). Scott Brown has since been quoted in Architect magazine saying the AJ started a ‘ballyhoo’ - and I suppose we did. But she also said that the ballyhoo has been healing. ‘That people have sent a petition and are expressing outrage… that’s real validation - as important, at least, as winning the prize.’
I’ve spoken with Martha Thorne, chief executive of the Pritzker Prize and expressed my view that they should publicly recognise Scott Brown’s equal contribution to architecture. I have sympathy for Thorne, who is a thoughtful and passionate member of the AJ Women in Architecture jury and a supporter of equal recognition for women. She didn’t oversee the 1991 judging, but will be meeting soon with the jury to discuss the petition - and a copy of every signature has been delivered to her, so she is well aware of the support for the campaign.
Can history be rewritten? No, but we can, and must, close this chapter.
If you would like to sign the petition, visit Change.org