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Denise Scott Brown wins Jane Drew Prize for women in architecture

The designer, scholar, and badass is getting her due

Matt Wargo/Courtesy of Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, Inc.

Congratulations are in order: Denise Scott Brown was announced this year’s winner of the Jane Drew Prize for Women in Architecture, which is jointly bestowed by The Architect’s Journal (AJ) and The Architectural Review.

Scott Brown’s recognition comes four years after a firestorm about her lack of recognition from the Pritzker Prize committee, who awarded her husband, architect Robert Venturi, the prestigious prize in 1991 without acknowledging her contributions to the couple’s practice, Venturi Scott Brown and Associates. In a speech in 2013, Scott Brown remarked that it was time to “salute the notion of joint creativity.”

A petition, organized by Women in Design, a student organization at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, circulated in 2013 for just such a salute, garnering over 20,000 signatures, including from Robert Venturi and OMA founder Rem Koolhaas.

The Vanna Venturi House, by Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, outside Philadelphia, is widely considered the preeminent example of Postmodern architecture in America.
Matt Wargo/Courtesy of Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, Inc.

Addressing news of her win with the AJ, Scott Brown said, “I’m a bit punch drunk on the whole subject of prizes as you can imagine given my history with them.”

In its citation, the Jane Drew Prize jury acknowledged that an online campaign to have the Pritzker Prize committee recognize Scott Brown’s work in a substantive way helped inform their choice for this year’s honor. The award is “a culmination of the grassroots drive to see [Scott Brown’s] contribution to the profession adequately recognized,” writes The Architect’s Journal.

Scott Brown’s co-authored the seminal architecture texts Learning From Las Vegas: the Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form, published in 1972, and Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), and has over the years been an outspoken champion of women in the profession and for Postmodernism in design.

Last February, Curbed nodded to Scott Brown’s immense contributions to the profession and icon status in a very twenty-first century way: with an emoji.

Previous Jane Drew Prize winners include French architect Odile Decq (in 2016) and the founders of Dublin-based Grafton Architects, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, who will, together, curate the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale.