It's fitting that the first duo to win the coveted AIA Gold Medal would be husband-and-wife team Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, Postmodern figureheads who excelled at both theoretical explorations and provocative projects. While the honor celebrates and elevates a storied career that includes iconic works such as the Franklin Court homes, "ghost" buildings of white tubular steel meant to represent the founding father's residence, it also offers a sense of justice, albeit slightly delayed. When the Pritzker committee decided to recognize their work in 1991, they awarded the prize to Venturi alone (despite citing Brown as a co-designer in an accompanying essay). This medal, and the honorary chiseling of both of their names on the Wall of Honor in the AIA's DC headquarters, put their creative partnership on a pedestal.
The couple met in the early '60s at the University of Pennsylvania, where both taught, crossing paths at a faculty meeting during which Brown argued for preserving an historic library on campus. Zambian-born Brown, who attended the prestigious Architectural Association in London, and Venturi, who previously worked with Eero Saarinen and Louis Kahn, soon began collaborating. Their work together, from co-authoring the 1972 book Learning From Las Vegas: the Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form (which introduced the famous concept of "ducks" and "decorated sheds") to numerous master plans, commercial projects, galleries and homes, celebrated vernacular forms and references.
This is only the second time a woman has won the AIA Gold Medal (the first time was last year, when posthumous honors were given to Julia Morgan).