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2014 Cheers to Denise & Julia

The summer of 2013 was a bit of a turbulent time for women in the architecture profession.  We were hoping for a turning point where the most prominent architectural award jury would finally begin to honor women as they should.  A petition was created by two Harvard graduate students that called for Denise Scott Brown, founding partner of Venturi Scott Brown Associates, to be recognized for her contributions to the 1991 award received by, her partner & husband, Robert Venturi for the firm’s body of work.  Begun in April, the petition gathered steam as architects & designers worldwide shared the news and links through social media.  By July, the petition received over 18,000 signatures (including those of many well-known female and male architects); and the Pritzker Jury finally submitted a statement, refusing to acknowledge Scott Brown for her contributions, claiming that they cannot re-open a Prize decision from a past year.

Though this was depressing news for the Harvard group, Women in Design, they continue to actively ‘petition’ in other ways to spread the awareness of this inequality, in hopes to better the future for female architects.  This past October, they invited Scott Brown to lecture at the Graduate School of Design.  She gave a wonderful 2-hour presentation where she shared her journey into architectural design, the formation of VSBA, and slides upon slides of photos from her time spent with Robert in Vegas and beyond.  It is very clear after previewing her years of research, recapped in hundreds of photos, that she has earned her title of ‘starchitect’!


I think I needed the small refresh ‘course’ to remember the studies she and Robert conducted and published in Learning From Las Vegas; but as it was “all coming back”, I immediately recognized the lessons found in those studies.  Architects and designers use the same techniques to research and plan spaces today… And we can thank Denise and Robert (equally) for teaching us that.

2013 still ended on a great note for female architects, as the American Institute of Architects posthumously awarded their yearly Gold Medal to Julia Morgan, FAIA.  Not only was she one of the first females in the industry to receive an architectural education and registration, but her designs were highly lauded as influential and inspiring. One of my previous blog posts gave an overview of her life and some of her most famous works.

So, as we enter the New Year, I feel that recognition and change is coming soon for women in architecture, and all professions.  Perseverance is key.  January tends to feel like the perfect time to amp up the fearlessness and gather the grit to persevere in this journey.  Just like Denise & Julia.

denise scott brown photo