Pioneering American architect, planner and theorist Denise Scott Brown has been awarded the 2018 Soane Medal for her ‘profound and far-reaching’ contribution to architecture
The prize is the second ever awarded by the Sir John Soane Museum in London, given to architects who have made a major contribution to their field.
The medal for Scott Brown, seen by many as one of the founders of Postmodernism, will be welcomed by campaigners who have long fought for industry recognition of her work.
In 2013, a petition was launched in a bid to persuade the Pritzker Prize director to correct the ‘oversight’ that awarded her husband and partner, Robert Venturi, the prize in 1991 for work they completed together.
Scott Brown had been a partner at Venturi Scott Brown for 22 years when Venturi won the prize. She also co-authored the seminal book Learning from Las Vegas with Venturi and Steven Izenour in 1972.
While the Pritzker Prize rejected the request, arguing it could not reopen the jury’s decision, the grassroots campaign did culminate in Scott Brown being awarded the Jane Drew Prize in 2017.
Scott Brown was born in Zambia in 1931 and studied at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa, and at the Architectural Association in London before receiving a master’s degree in architecture and city planning from the University of Pennsylvania.
As principal of Venturi Scott Brown, Scott Brown has been instrumental in designing buildings such as the Département de la Haute-Garonne building in Toulouse, the Mielparque resort in Kirifuri National Park, Japan, and the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery in London.
Denise Scott Brown’s award will be celebrated at a special public event on 17 October at the Sainsbury Wing. The event will comprise a lecture, pre-recorded by Denise Scott Brown at her home in Philadelphia and illustrated by her own, largely unpublished, photographs, with a live response by David Chipperfield.
Denise Scott Brown
Bruce Boucher, director of Sir John Soane’s Museum, said: ‘Denise Scott Brown has made a unique contribution to the field of architecture through her scholarship, her teaching and her practice.
’The Soane Medal recognises Denise as someone whose exemplary practice is an inspiration to architects of all generations and backgrounds.’
The Soane Medal was established in 2017 to continue the mission of the museum’s founder to encourage a better understanding of the central importance of architecture. The inaugural medal was won by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo.
Scott Brown was selected for the award by a jury comprising Bruce Boucher, Sir David Chipperfield, Paul Goldberger, Owen Hopkins, Farshid Moussavi, Eric Parry, Alice Rawsthorn, and Oliver Wainwright.
Chipperfield, also a trustee of Sir John Soane’s Museum, said: ‘The jury considered many outstanding candidates; however Denise Scott Brown stood apart and was the jury’s unanimous choice.
’Scott Brown’s contribution across architecture, urbanism, theory and education over the last fifty years has been profound and far-reaching. Her example has been an inspiration to many, and we are delighted to honour her with the awarding of the Soane Medal.’
Denise Scott Brown in front of The Strip, Las Vegas, 1966
Source: Robert Venturi, courtesy of Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates