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Harvard Students Fire Back At Pritzker Jury's Response to Denise Scott Brown Petition

Harvard's Women in Design group asks Pritzker Jury to reconsider prize rules.

July 11, 2013
DSB Students Letter
Harvard Graduate School of Design students Caroline James (left) and Arielle Assouline-Lichten (right) launched a petition in late March asking the Pritzker committee to recognize Denise Scott Brown as part of the 1991 Pritzker Prize, which was awarded to her husband Robert Venturi.

The Harvard Graduate School of Design students behind the Denise Scott Brown petition are not taking no for an answer.

The students today called on the current Pritzker Prize jury to reconsider its decision, announced last month, not to retroactively include Scott Brown in the prize won by her husband and partner Robert Venturi in 1991. In a letter to the jury, the students, part of Harvard’s Women in Design group, rejected the notion that prize rules are fixed and do not allow the jury to revisit past awards. “[T]he rules of the Pritzker Architecture Prize are made by the Pritzker Architecture Prize. Thus, your refusal to not revisit the 1991 prize is a choice.”

They further suggested that the Scott Brown case—and the current public outcry—reveals larger philosophical and procedural flaws in the judging of the Pritzker Prize, noting the recent omission of Lu Wenyu from the 2012 prize awarded to her husband Wang Shu. "We are deeply concerned that there is a systemic bias in the awarding of the Pritzker Prize, which has led in particular to the exclusion of women, and the prolonging of a myth of the lone male hero in architecture."

(Read the text of their letter to the jury below.)

As an extension of the petition, the students also announced the launch of a new group, Design For Equality, which will catalogue responses to the Denise Scott Brown petition and explore the broader issues of diversity and collaboration in the architecture profession.

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*****

July 11, 2013

We have received your response to the Petition of over 18,000 people, which includes the support of nine Pritzker Prize laureates. We stand firm in our conviction of equal recognition for equal work.

Your letter dated June 14 states that “a later jury cannot re-open, or second guess the work of an earlier jury, and none has ever done so.” However, the rules of the Pritzker Architecture Prize are made by the Pritzker Architecture Prize. Thus, your refusal to not revisit the 1991 prize is a choice.

It's important that we distinguish the nature of our appeal: it is to obtain explicit recognition of Denise Scott Brown's material contribution to the work that the Pritzker Jury believed to merit the prize. Our sole objective is to correct the record.

We are deeply concerned that there is a systemic bias in the awarding of the Pritzker Prize, which has led in particular to the exclusion of women, and the prolonging of a myth of the lone male hero in architecture. Just one year ago, Lu Wenyu was also excluded from receiving due recognition for her work with Wang Shu that merited the Pritzker Prize in 2012. As equal partners in their respective firms, Lu Wenyu and Denise Scott Brown deserve the same respect that their male counterparts have received. Addressing these biases now is a moral and decent act to ensure that these injustices won’t happen again.

The current Pritzker Jury has the power to set the record straight. In doing so, the Pritzker jury will send a resounding message that fair recognition is essential to progress, and realizing the full potential of creativity in the architecture profession.

We look forward to hearing from you shortly, and to working together to bring justice and equal recognition to the architectural profession.

Signed,

Women in Design
Harvard University

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