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There has been much discussion raised about "Why are women leaving Architecture? and more broadly, Why is the profession losing key talent?"  Both women and men practitioners are disillusioned by the myth of work/life balance: Women are grappling with "have it all" expectations of juggling family time with the demands of full-time work.  Men are struggling to support their families solely on an architect's salary and fall back on asking spouses to maintain their jobs. The lack of affordable childcare and high cost of living only magnifies the challenges.  How did we end up in this modern family dilemma? What can we do to improve the situation?

AIA's Gold Medal: The Importance and Value of U.S. Architecture's Top Prize

Editor's Note:

On Wednesday, December 2, 2015, The American Institute of Architects announced Denise Scott Brown, hon. FAIA and Robert Venturi, FAIA, as joint winners of the 2016 AIA Gold Medal. The AIA cited the duo for their "built projects as well as literature that set the stage for Postmodernism and nearly every other formal evolution in architecture." Scott Brown and Venturi are the first duo to receive the Gold Medal, after the AIA approved a change to its bylaws in 2013 that allowed the award to be presented to up to two individuals working together towards a significant singular body of work.

The American Institute of Architects has named Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi the recipients of its 2016 Gold Medal, an honor that makes a statement about the role of women in design and takes a subtle shot at the field’s highest award, the Pritzker Architecture Prize.
— Blair Kamin

The post written below is by Julia Donoho, AIA, Esq. as a response to Architecture gold medal, rebutting Pritzker, goes to Scott Brown and Venturi, an article written on December 3, 2015 by Blair Kamin, The Chicago Tribune's Architectural Critic. Julia, who was part of the nomination team for Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi's AIA Gold Medal, contends the value and importance of earning this award is the highest honor in the AIA and spearheads progressive recognition within the profession of Architecture.


Mr. Kamin,
As the advocate on the AIA Board of Directors and Strategic Council who championed the nominations of Julia Morgan, Robert Venturi, and Denise Scott Brown, I am writing to give you some additional background and clear the record on the importance, value, and process of receiving the Gold Medal in Architecture from the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

Importance
The AIA Gold Medal is solid gold, and, like the gold medals from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, France, and the Union Internationale d’Architecture, it is given in recognition of “a significant body of work of lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture.”  It is a pinnacle of lifetime achievement. The Pritzker Prize is a bronze medal, given for “talent, vision and commitment,” typically received earlier in the career.  That the Pritzker has chosen to dub itself the “Nobel prize in architecture” is not an indication that it is a better award, or the top award in architecture, but more clearly reflects to us that they are using marketing slogans to inflate their importance, and the media has perpetuated that suggestion.
 

Value
Receiving the AIA Gold Medal is of far greater value to the architects who have received it because of its importance.  While receiving a prize with a purse has intrinsic value, the architects who receive the Pritzker don’t really have to do anything in terms of nomination, and selection to get the award.  And, as with Robert Venturi, the candidate has no say in the matter.  When the Pritzker’s called to say he would be their recipient and he suggested that he and Denise Scott Brown should be the recipient together, they said no.  He did not apply for a solo award and he was clear in his speech that it was a “we” endeavor.  They refused to listen.  So, for Venturi, this award mostly brought him problems and dilemmas.  It has been terribly difficult for his personal relationship and for the whole profession to watch this couple asking to be treated appropriately.  Getting Pritzker’d can be a bad thing.
 

Process
The process of receiving an AIA Gold Medal is the most rigorous in the industry and for that reason it is highly coveted.  First, there has to be a committee of peers who want the architect to have the award, who are willing to nominate and advocate.  A portfolio must be made with letters of support from other top architects and submitted to the AIA.  A Gold Medal Jury reviews submissions and makes a shortlist of three candidates for the Board to consider.   Then an advocate for each of the candidates comes before AIA Leadership and Regional Representatives to make a presentation.  Deliberations in private result in the final selection.  Because of this rigorous process, this is truly an award from the profession making it a far stronger acknowledgment of a lifetime of work of lasting impact than a single jury can provide.
 

Conclusion
In closing, the conferral of this award on Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown is not in any way a response to the Pritzker’s lack of vision.  It is really a new statement that Howard Roark is dead, that the myth of the lone genius as the only pathway to architectural impact is set aside, and an assertion that our profession is far more inclusive than ever before.  The American Institute of Architects is driving positive change through the power of design.
Standing up for themselves, and for opening our profession to a new paradigm, Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown are once again American HEROES. They have opened our eyes, again. Their work is so profoundly impactful on our whole profession that it was an honor to finally get them the proper reward.   The AIA Gold Medal wall will now include these masters of modern architecture as we hold them up as two of our greatest architects, made greater still by a lifetime of working together.
 

Thank you,
Julia Donoho, AIA, Esq.
Architectural Advocate

A New Era of Women Rising in the Architecture Profession

By Julia Donoho, AIA, Esq.

For two years in a row, women have made it into the top levels of competition for the highest honor of the American Institute of Architects.  Last year a singular architect, Julia Morgan, FAIA, was the recipient of the AIA Gold Medal and this year as a part of a collaborative duo – Denise Scott Brown, FRIBA, with Robert Venturi, FAIA, was a Finalist for the Gold Medal.  WOW!  This is an outstanding and historic moment for all women in the profession, however they practice.  And it is happening in a year when the third woman president of the AIA, Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA, is passing the baton to the fourth woman president, Elizabeth Chu Richter, FAIA. The profession is becoming inclusive and diverse at the top levels.

   AIA National Presidents:  Elizabeth Chu Richter, FAIA, Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA,  Kate Schwennsen, FAIA, and Susan Maxman, FAIA

 

AIA National Presidents:  Elizabeth Chu Richter, FAIA, Helene Combs Dreiling, FAIA, Kate Schwennsen, FAIA, and Susan Maxman, FAIA

How did we get here?  There are at least three threads of activity that are contributing to this change in awareness and activity.  There are the individual efforts of architects to promote and propel themselves forward, there are collective efforts like the AIA Women’s Leadership Summit, the Missing 32% Project, Women in Architecture, the Organization for Women in Architecture and then there is the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation (BWAF) igniting and instigating change at the upper levels.  All of these efforts are necessary when the individual routes are not bearing fruit, but it is the individual efforts that are most telling.  Let’s look at one.

Learning from Denise: In 1967, Denise Scott Brown was mid-career and a tenured faculty member at UCLA, Co-Chair of the Urban Planning program, when Robert Venturi asked her to be his partner in life and business.  She joined the firm of Venturi and Rauch and was made partner by 1969.  It was her bright, fresh, raw viewpoint coming from Johannesburg and London that embraced the American landscape as IS and led to Learning from Las Vegas. Melding her African, English and European training with urban planning and architectural academicism made her good and ready to ask students to look at the world differently. The studio at Yale came out of her vision and experience.  She embraced the American west, for ALL that that includes.  She shared her vision, included others in her studio, and put their names on the front of the book.  She was a collaborator.  The rest of the world, so blinded by the love of Starchitects, could only see the work as Venturi’s for many years.  

    Image Caption: Bob and Denise stand alone in the desert in this collage (1966 study for Learning from Las Vegas). The team refuses to accept lone stature in the recognition of their work. Harry Bolick commented, “Architecture, design and creativity can be a symbiotic product of more than one person's individual vision. Bob and Denise were both willing to forego the AIA Gold Medal in favor of standing firm throughout a lifetime of creative production. Their forbearance represents how and why this culture shift has, finally, after 108 years, come to be recognized by the AIA and other leading Institutions.” Photographers: Robert Venturi (above) Denise Scott Brown (below)

 

Image Caption: Bob and Denise stand alone in the desert in this collage (1966 study for Learning from Las Vegas). The team refuses to accept lone stature in the recognition of their work. Harry Bolick commented, “Architecture, design and creativity can be a symbiotic product of more than one person's individual vision. Bob and Denise were both willing to forego the AIA Gold Medal in favor of standing firm throughout a lifetime of creative production. Their forbearance represents how and why this culture shift has, finally, after 108 years, come to be recognized by the AIA and other leading Institutions.” Photographers: Robert Venturi (above) Denise Scott Brown (below)

It has taken us this long to be ready to see that the interweaving of design thinking from more than one viewpoint leads to a richer architectural expression.  Venturi and Scott Brown understood that from their first meeting in 1960, and that is why they are best known for introducing ideas in architecture that were radical and for shifting the consciousness of the profession.  The urban planning training from social scientists and activists at Penn affected Bob and Denise’s design work profoundly. More than that and more than architects realize, they hold the key to avoiding the urban architectural mistakes that Jane Jacobs described.  Venturi and Scott Brown’s work shows how to bring a powerful sense of place to bear in resolving architectural programs.

As early as 1973, Scott Brown saw that her work and her contribution to the firm, even though she was a partner, was being disregarded in the quest of others to reach the “Architect.”  That she was the “Architect” they could not believe, it was not in their realm of possibilities.  She started to speak on the experience at the Alliance for Women in Architecture in New York, and in 1975 wrote an article, “Room at the Top? Sexism and the Star System.”  At first she did not publish the article for concern about the reputation of her career and her firm.  Their work is all about complexity and contradiction, Venturi more historicist and she more PopArt, and their work was created through a collaborative process that brought these two views together in making architecture.   People wanted to see an ego architect, not a collaborative effort, so she lived with the contradiction.  She hoped societal change would move things along.  As time went on, the women’s movement took hold, but did not deliver the changes to her situation that she needed.   In 1989, fourteen years later, she published her article in the book Architecture, A Place for Women.  It created quite a stir.  It made people mad, they argued, they debated, they denied it was true, and they changed their viewpoint only slightly. 

In 1991, when the Pritzker organization decided to give her partner, Robert Venturi, their Prize in architecture, it became clear that the message was not being heard.  Venturi tried to tell them the award should go to both together but their ears could not hear.  They thought giving it to Venturi was enough.  Scott Brown did not attend the ceremony.  Her resolve to shift the viewpoint of the profession increased.  Robert Venturi agreed and took the position that he would not allow anyone to put his name forward for the Gold Medal without Denise Scott Brown. 

From then forward, Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown began their campaign to shift the rules of the AIA to allow the Gold Medal to be awarded to two creative people working together.   On numerous occasions, Venturi and Scott Brown were nominated to receive the AIA Gold Medal, and a portfolio was submitted to the American Institute of Architects.  It was returned without review.  The rules stated that only one individual could be nominated for the Gold Medal.  In 2013, Frederic Schwartz, FAIA, working through his AIA Regional Directors in New York – Tony Schirrippa, FAIA, and Burt Roslyn, FAIA, were successful in shifting the rules to allow the portfolio to be accepted.   2014 is the first year that the portfolio was not returned.  They made it into the Finalist round.  Perfect! 

Bob & Denise are titans in the field of Architecture and their most recent accomplishment, getting us to this point was a 47 year effort.  Such courage and perseverance, creative geniuses leading the way for multiple generations!  Now THAT is some lasting influence on the profession of architecture.  In 2014, in their 80’s, these two have changed us and changed the course of architectural history, AGAIN. 

This is a HISTORIC moment for the individuals stepping into these top level spots in leadership and in recognition, and for all women working in the field of architecture.  Just to recap – in two short years we have had a woman that worked as a sole principal win the Gold Medal, a woman that worked as a partner and collaborator become a finalist for the Gold Medal with her partner, a woman that led a career of service to the profession serving as President of the Institute, and a woman who works as a CEO for her architectural firm, now in the top position of service to the profession refocusing us onto the business of architecture.  WOW, these are changing times!

To the Editor: Inclusion, Recognition, and the 2015 AIA Gold Medal Decision

Architectural Record's December 11, 2014 news story, "AIA Chooses Moshe Safdie Over Venturi Scott Brown for Gold Medal," broke the story to this year's Gold Medal judging. Caroline James wrote a Letter to the Editor in response to this historic AIA Gold Medal decision on January 6, 2015. The following is the original letter with photos and image captions.

To the Editor:

Inclusion, Recognition, and the 2015 AIA Gold Medal Decision

The AIA National Jury announced their decision last month to award the Gold Medal to Moshe Safdie, an esteemed architect and educator whose work and influence spans many continents. The outcome, however, was surprising and disappointing to supporters of Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi. Many feel that their recognition by the AIA’s highest professional honor is long overdue. “Why didn’t they win?” they asked. As one of the spearheads with Arielle Assouline-Lichten and Women in Design of the Petition to Recognize Denise Scott Brown for her role in the Pritzker Prize, I would like to set this decision in the context of the last few years and the years to come.

The 2015 Gold Medal round was the first in history when the application for Venturi and Scott Brown was opened, considered, and embraced. Over three decades, many had urged Bob to apply on his own, but he refused to go for the Gold alone. Each of their joint applications was returned owing to old eligibility requirements that have since been amended. The placing of Bob and Denise among the finalists constitutes a momentous recognition of joint creativity in design. 

Assembling the Gold Medal nomination is a thorough process, brought forth by teams of supporters for each applicant who network with architects and others and secure letters of recommendation. For Bob and Denise, this support came from the profession, legacy firms, University Presidents, and architectural historians. Seven former Gold Medalists, perhaps a record-setting number, wrote letters on their behalf. The National AIA Committee on Design served as the official nominating entity. 

Billie Tsien, principal of New York-based Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, delivered the presentation at AIA National Headquarters. “I felt a big responsibility to make the presentation,” Tsien said, “It is the right thing to do. We know that architecture comes from many hands, but joint creativity is a mysterious and indescribable trait. The work that they’ve done is so intertwined.” Tsien’s presentation is historic, for it reveals the nature of their shared creative output.

Kem Hinton, FAIA, of Nashville’s Tuck-Hinton Architects, headed this year’s application with the help of many, including Julia Donoho, AIA, Esq. and Harry Bolick, VSBA Inc. Hinton added, “The late Fred Schwartz, FAIA, and his partner, editor and writer Tracey Hummer, led this effort with the support of so many across the nation. Having witnessed the remarkable collaboration of Denise and Bob, I am elated at the progress. Now onward to the next swing at the bat for this dynamic duo.” 

 

Image Caption: Artist Ann Hawkins etches Julia Morgan’s name into the black granite on the pantheon of the AIA National Headquarters. Julia Donoho, AIA, Esq. led the 2014 nomination process for Morgan, and also worked with the Venturi and Scott Brown nominating team. Donoho said, "This success for men and women working in partnership is a victory 47 years in the making. A new story is being told about how creative collaboration can succeed. The work of Bob and Denise is a weaving together of two great talents to create a body of work of lasting influence on the profession. It was a privilege to be part of telling that story." Image Credit: Jack Evans

On the evening that the Gold Medal decision was announced, I spoke with Denise, who underscored the positive impacts and progress in the profession over the last two years that cannot be taken away:

Positive #1: Julia Morgan in 2014 became the first woman architect to receive the AIA Gold Medal, over 60 years after her death. She was as prolific as Frank Lloyd Wright in terms of output, building over 700 projects, including Hearst Castle.

Positive #2: The AIA amended the rules to allow partners to receive the Gold Medal for the first time. Eligibility guidelines for the Gold Medal now state: “Any individual (not necessarily an American or an architect); or two individuals working together (but only if their collaborative efforts over time are recognized as having created a singular body of distinguished architectural work) ….” 

    Image Caption: Bob and Denise stand alone in the desert in this collage (1966 study for Learning from Las Vegas). The team refuses to accept lone stature in the recognition of their work. Harry Bolick commented, “Architecture, design and creativity can be a symbiotic product of more than one person's individual vision. Bob and Denise were both willing to forego the AIA Gold Medal in favor of standing firm throughout a lifetime of creative production. Their forbearance represents how and why this culture shift has, finally, after 108 years, come to be recognized by the AIA and other leading Institutions.” Photographers: Robert Venturi (above) Denise Scott Brown (below)

 

Image Caption: Bob and Denise stand alone in the desert in this collage (1966 study for Learning from Las Vegas). The team refuses to accept lone stature in the recognition of their work. Harry Bolick commented, “Architecture, design and creativity can be a symbiotic product of more than one person's individual vision. Bob and Denise were both willing to forego the AIA Gold Medal in favor of standing firm throughout a lifetime of creative production. Their forbearance represents how and why this culture shift has, finally, after 108 years, come to be recognized by the AIA and other leading Institutions.” Photographers: Robert Venturi (above) Denise Scott Brown (below)

Positive #3: Denise said the Pritzker Petition brought much “love” to architecture. This was her compliment to nearly 20,000 signers, many of whom made statements on change.org that communicate their support, and also wider thoughts and concerns about the profession. Denise interprets the Petition as a social document—a datum on where architecture stands in 2013-2014. In her 2013 lecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, she elaborated, calling petitioners’ comments, “Mayhew’s Architecture,” in reference to an historic report on conditions of workers in London during the Industrial Revolution.

 

Image Caption: Denise Scott Brown delivers “Mayhew’s Architecture” at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 2013. In a note to Scott Brown, Italian architect Carolina Vaccaro wrote that the Petition is “the worldwide acknowledgment that your outsider ideas and research are still (and will be for a long time) the best source any architect can have!” Image Credit: Beth Roloff

The 2015 Gold Medal round and these positive outcomes are all part of a process towards understanding and resolving issues of inclusion within a contemporary context. It’s not without fits and starts, and it’s not just for partners, or women, or Denise Scott Brown. Women in Design, The Missing 32% Project, and the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation have joined organizations worldwide in leading the charge towards an inclusive and diverse profession that recognizes all its constituents. Many overlapping dialogues and controversies are shifting the course of the profession and recent events suggest the efforts are succeeding. Bob and Denise’s supporters will likely re-nominate them next year for the AIA Gold Medal. This year’s jury and supporters are enthusiastic in recommending they should. Everything considered here suggests the same.

Caroline James

Women in Design - Cambridge, MA

January 6, 2015