Pritzker Prize petition overruled

Wednesday 19 Jun 2013

Denise Scott Brown will not receive Pritzker recognition says Lord Peter Palumbo

A petition to award Denise Scott Brown the joint title of Pritzker-Prize winner with her husband Robert Venturi has been overturned. Venturi won the esteemed prize in 1991 however a recent petition on that amassed over 18,000 signatures challenged the Pritzker Prize jury to award Scott Brown the joint title given that she was co-creator of the work that won the original award.

At an event for women in architecture Scott Brown stated: “They owe me not a Pritzker Prize but a Pritzker inclusion ceremony. Let’s salute the notion of joint creativity.” Her words inspired Harvard University students Caroline James and Arielle Assouline-Lichten to create the petition which has gained signatures from respected architects worldwide including Rem Koolhaas and Pierre de Meuron.

In a letter to James and Assouline-Lichten, Chair of the 2013 Pritzker Architecture Prize Lord Peter Palumbo confirmed that the petition has been overturned and Scott Brown will not be recognised by the board as over 18,000 individuals had hoped. The full letter can be read below. The petition’s founders have implored those who have signed it to continue to fight for the cause, with Twitter abuzz with design professionals suggesting a boycott of the Pritzker Prize.

The letter reads thus:

Thank you for sending your petitions and letters, and those of others, about Ms. Denise Scott Brown and the Pritzker Architecture Prize. Insofar as you have in mind a retroactive award of the prize to Ms. Scott Brown, the present jury cannot do so. 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.

Let us assure you, however, that Ms. Scott Brown remains eligible for the Pritzker Award. 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. It will be up to present and future juries to determine who among the many architects practicing throughout the world receives future awards. Not every knowledgeable observer always agrees with the jury’s selection. But the jury will continue to do its best to select solely upon the basis of the quality of the architect’s record.

That said, we should like to thank you for calling directly to our attention a more general problem, namely that of assuring women a fair and equal place within the profession. To provide that assurance is, of course, an obligation embraced by every part of the profession, from the schools that might first encourage students to enter the profession to the architectural firms that must facilitate the ability of women to fulfill their potential as architects. We believe that one particular role that the Pritzker Jury must fulfill, in this respect, is that of keeping in mind the fact 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.

Your communications remind us of this obligation, and we appreciate your sending them. Insofar, however, as they ask us to reopen the decision-making process of a previous jury, we cannot do so.

Yours sincerely,

Lord Peter Palumbo
Chair, On behalf of the Jury of the 2013 Pritzker Architecture Prize

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