Architect Robert Charles Venturi Jr. who died last week at the age of 93, was the recipient of prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1991. However, that recognition not only brought fame and name to the architect but also created its share of controversy which continued till 2013. Do you know what is the controversy surrounding Venturi’s Pritzker Prize award?
Venturi married his longtime friend Scott Brown in 1967 and that year she officially joined the firm, becoming a partner in 1969. The practice became known as Venturi, Scott Brown, and Associates in 1989, and is today called VSBA. The pair not only published some well-known books on architectural theory like The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form but also worked together on such landmark projects as Art Museum in Oberlin, Ohio, and Franklin Court in Philadelphia, and the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery in London.
In 1991, Venturi was awarded the Pritzker Prize, the highest honor in architecture, which also gave rise to a controversy as the jury failed to recognized Scott Brown’s contributions. Later on, Scott Brown in her petition to the jury had demanded that while giving an award to Robert Venturi, the jury should have acknowledged her contributions too as she was the long-time partner in the firm Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates. Further, one of the biggest issues raised by the Scott Brown controversy was how women are acknowledged in a field that is dominated by men.
However, Pritzker jury was not ready to buy this argument and refused to honour her retroactively. The decision was announced via a letter issued by Peter Palumbo in 2013, who then served as chair of the Pritzker jury. “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,” the jury said in its letter.
However, the couple got some solace in 2016 when they received an accolade – AIA Gold Medal, that, unlike the Pritkzer, honored both Venturi and Scott Brown.