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: