The sorry side of The Pritzker Prize

Following on from our recent post on this year’s Pritzker Prize winner it is timely that only last week the great architect, planner and author Denise Scott Brown has voiced a very justified criticism of the prize. Her husband Robert Venturi was named as the winner in 1991 and was given sole praise for the work done by their practice Scott Brown Venturi despite the fact Denise was a partner in the firm and equally responsible for Venturi’s work.


Robert Venturi & Denise Scott Brown

Denise Scott Brown is a postmodern icon and has been credited for playing a critical role in the evolution of architectural theory and design for over a quarter of a century. Alongside Venturi their work shaped a generation of architects & their book ‘Learning from Las Vegas’ where they explored the idea that spatial relationships are created through symbols rather than forms was a very influential piece of architecture writing.


During a speech at the AJ Women in Architecture luncheon in London last week, Scott Brown quite rightly requested to be acknowledged retrospectively for her role in Venturi’s 1991 Pritzker Prize. In fact it is quite astonishing that she should even have to raise this with The Pritzker jury not being prepared to step in before now. The way in which the 1991 award was decided highlights a much wider issue that even until this day women in architecture are still fighting for the recognition deserved.

‘I would say that being a student for a woman is about the best it gets,’ Denise Scott Brown has said. To think that she has a very valid point here is very disturbing for the industry as a whole and this should be properly acknowledged;

‘There are as many women as men in the early stages of architectural practice, but as they move up the ladder, the glass ceiling really hits,’ she said.

The fact Zaha Hadid & Kazuyo Sejima are to date the only recognised female winners of The Pritzker Prize in more than thirty years speaks volumes. Regardless of the inequality amongst the prize winners the issue is more magnified at all levels; According to The Architect’s Journal only 21% of architects are women, and they earn 25% less than their male counterparts. The reasons for this big divide are not easily explained especially as one would expect there is now full equality within the profession. However we would certainly welcome your suggestions at the end of this post if you care to share your opinion.

Denise Scott Brown sadly has not as yet received her due praise for the 1991 Pritzker Prize and many feel Pritzker should now acknowledge her as a joint recipient of the award:

“They owe me not a Pritzker Prize, but a Pritzker inclusion ceremony. Let’s salute the notion of joint creativity.”  she said.

Let’s hope the recognition she deserves comes sooner rather than later!

denise scott brown1

Denise Scott Brown


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