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The petition for Scott Brown has failed, but let it be a rallying call for equal recognition

Because they decided they couldn’t reopen a previous decision, the jury did not consider the work of Scott Brown and Venturi at all, says Christine Murray

The AIA is reconsidering its criteria for the Gold Medal. The Pritzker Prize committee has admitted that it needs to work harder to seek out and acknowledge women in architecture. And from the New Yorker to the Herald Tribune, the New York Times to the Huffington Post, editorials have called for equal recognition for women in architecture. For a failed petition, the call to retrospectively extend the 1991 Pritzker Prize to Denise Scott Brown alongside Robert Venturi has certainly raised the profile of the Women in Architecture campaign. Sadly, the ‘inclusion ceremony’ requested by Scott Brown is not to be.

The 2013 Pritzker Prize jury was given the task of considering the nearly 18,000-signature petition, inspired by the AJ interview with Scott Brown and started by two Harvard students. In his letter to petition authors Arielle Assouline-Lichten and Caroline James, jury chair Peter Palumbo declares that ‘insofar as they ask us to reopen the decision-making process of a previous jury, we cannot do so’.

Their alibi of powerlessness to the thrall of history is disingenuous. Even without retroactively awarding the prize, the jury could have come out and said whether they would have acted differently today. Indeed, the language of the letter dances quite nimbly around the question of whether or not the current jury agrees with the petition or not.

The jury actually did not consider the work of Scott Brown and Venturi at all

In fact, because they decided they couldn’t reopen a previous decision, the jury actually did not consider the work of Scott Brown and Venturi at all. They simply debated their responsibility to past juries, and whether they could disqualify a previous decision by making a statement for, or against it. They decided they couldn’t, and that, in their minds, is that.

And so, nothing has changed about the 1991 Pritzker Prize to Venturi – except that a lot more people have read about it. This campaign has never been about a single person, or outcome. It is now the responsibility of this publication, and the 18,000 signatories of the petition, to ensure the momentum generated from this campaign leads to meaningful and lasting change through equal pay and recognition for all women in architecture.

Even Martha Thorne, the executive director of the Pritzker Prize, has said she hopes the petition will be a defining moment for women in architecture. ‘In history, there is often an event or one person that causes a shift,’ said Thorne. ‘I hope this petition will be the rallying call.’

Thorne also 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. Thorne also says she’ll be broadening her search for nominations for the prize, ‘particularly in the field of women, recognising that we must seek out diversity and recognise collaboration.’

Let’s help her by nominating brilliant women – including Scott Brown – to be considered for future Pritzker Prizes. You can do so by leaving a comment on the Pritzker Prize’s Facebook page with the name of the person/s you wish to nominate. Go to:

www.facebook.com/pages/Pritzker-Architecture-Prize.

Readers' comments (2)

  • It's quite embarrassing that this whole thing thing went on so long. If the AJ wasn't in the middle of a "girl power" movement at the moment this wouldn't have had half the airtime.

    The fact that one of the topics at the top of AJ is "women in architecture" highlights the magazines priorities at the moment. Why isn't there a tab for "young architects", "old architects", "part qualified architects", "architects of diverse ethnic origin", "homosexual architects", "heterosexual architects", "handicapped architects"???

    Surely selecting one group as worthy of acknowledgement above all others is wrong! It seems that the entire section is in place purely to provide Christine Murray with a job and a platform to vent her personal frustrations. Surely to comment adequately on the profession you would need to be fully immersed in it, not just watching from the sidelines and choosing your own agenda.

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  • Christine Murray

    The AJ Women in Architecture campaign was launched in response to a survey of 700 women architects who highlighted issues of equal pay and recognition in architecture. The Women in Architecture tab at the top of our website is there because it is one of the most searched for section on our website, so we made it easier to find. Its prominence is in response to subscriber demand and letters received. We regularly also cover issues facing old, young, part qualified, architects of diverse origin and lesbian, gay and bisexual architects experiencing discrimination because "surely selecting one group as worthy of recognition above another is wrong". As for your personal comments about me, I will not credit them with a response, but advise you that trolling is not tolerated on the AJ site.

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