One of architecture’s leading ladies is finally getting her due.
The American Institute of Architects announced that Denise Scott Brown won the 2016 Gold Medal, the institute’s top honor, along with husband and partner Robert Venturi. The award offers a delicious corrective to a snub 25 years ago, when architecture’s most coveted prize, the Pritzker, was conferred to Venturi and not Scott Brown. (If the Pritzker is an Oscar, the AIA Gold Medal is a Golden Globe.)
Venturi and Scott Brown have been partners through and through. They co-authored Learning From Las Vegas, the influential 1972 treatise on Postmodernism, and collaborated on master plans, commercial projects, houses, museums and galleries throughout their prolific career.
Scott Brown and Venturi went against the tyrannical rigidity of Modernism and incorporated historical references and regional vernaculars into their projects. The AIA committee cited Franklin Court Independence Historic National Park, in Philadelphia; The Best Products Showroom, in Langhorne, Pennsylvania; The Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery, in London; and The Provincial Capital Building in Toulouse, France, as some of the duo’s best work.
This marks the second time a woman has won the AIA Gold Medal and the first time a woman has won in her lifetime. (In 2014, the medal was awarded to Julia Morgan, who died in 1957.) The architecture industry is notoriously bad at recognizing the work of women in a male-dominated field. Today, women represent 17% of registered architects in America, up from 9% in 2000. That Scott Brown won the award is a step in the right direction. Someone tell the Pritzker committee.