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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?

"What Zaha Hadid meant to me.... and what she didn't"

by Sharon Portnoy, AIA  (originally written on April 5, 2016)

After Dame Zaha Hadid’s sudden death was announced last week, the design blogosphere began asking what she and her work meant to female architects. For many, apparently, the answer is that Zaha was a role model who cracked the glass ceiling and showed us just what is possible for female architects to achieve in this new millennium. For me, however, as much as I admired her prodigious talent and formal ingenuity, she was more a curiosity than a role model. Referred to as “Zaha,” she had more in common with other one-named celebrities, like Cher or Madonna, than she did with the other 99% of female architects. Her ascendency was fun to watch in a reality TV sort of way. In her signature black cape, she burst onto the scene to wage heroic battles on an international stage. She was an outsized talent with a persona to match. She was a glamorous avatar, leading the charge against complacency in the profession and battling for the supremacy of innovation in form. Her work was visionary. It seemed unbuildable, and yet, she built it. She had moxie; she had chutzpah; and her work was thrilling.

But Zaha’s reality was a far cry from the realities of the rest of us, and I worry that by holding her up as an emblem of what female architects have achieved, we run the risk of overlooking the far less dramatic, but no less daunting, challenges that women in architecture continue to face. Zaha’s Pritzker Prize no more represents gender equity in the architectural profession at large than Barack Obama’s presidency indicates that we live in a post-racial America. Zaha was an outlier. Most female architects in the United States are not only not “Starchitects,” they are woefully underrepresented in the profession, particularly at senior levels. 

According to a 2014 report by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, nearly half of all architecture school graduates are women, yet only 17% of architecture firm partners and principals are women. Women are paid less than their male counterparts upon graduation, are more likely to leave the profession before achieving milestones like licensure, and drop out of the field at much higher rates than men, often for good. 

In 2014, AIA SF’s "Equity in Architecture Survey" and Equity by Design symposium explored some of the forces contributing to these discouraging numbers, among them implicit bias, wage inequality, and a culture that romanticizes the figure of the architect as the lone genius a la Ayn Rand’s Howard Roark. Zaha herself perpetuated that myth. “If you want an easy life, don’t be an architect,” she was quoted as saying. “Ask anybody in my office. You have to work all the time. If you want a nine-to-five job and to go home and relax, just don’t do it.” She was right, of course; architecture is a demanding profession. But for many architects, especially women, it’s not a question of going home at five to relax. It’s about rushing home in time to start the “second-shift,” and tending to all the other things that make us valuable to our families, our communities, and our clients. Going home at the end of the workday, while frowned upon by many in our profession, is not only desirable, but necessary for us to do our best work. We need to renew our creative stores, and to nurture the aspects of being human that allow us to engage the world around us and create thoughtful, healthy, and inspirational environments. Architects are often viewed as being elitist and out of touch with the way “normal people” live, imposing our impossible aesthetic standards and trying to educate them on what they should like or how they should live. Getting out of the office is just one way for us to better understand the society we serve.

Zaha was many things, but a representative of everywoman in architecture was not one of them. Fortunately for us, there are many female groundbreakers in the field. They may not be household names, but they have beaten the odds and are now working at the highest levels of the profession. They are winning clients, directing practices, and leading some of the best architecture schools in the nation. These are the women who show up every day at construction sites, client meetings, community review boards, and design juries. They work on tight deadlines and even tighter budgets. They advance the cause of sustainable building practices, navigate arcane building codes, and mentor younger architects. They may or may not wear black capes, but to me, they are the real superheroes and there are not nearly enough of them.

(Editor's note: Sharon Portnoy's insights were recently included in the NYTimes Article: Female Architects Speak Out on Sexism, Pay Inequity and More)



I make (a change)

by Jame Anderson, AIA

When invited to write a post about my “return to architecture”, my first thought was “What was this ‘Architecture’ that I had left?”  I pondered all of the ways I could describe this decision, anything I could share with others, and I started performing an epic Tina Fey eye roll.  Who would want to hear this?  It sounds like a cheesy self-help book or one of those posters in the breakroom of The Office.

Jame Anderson worked as an Architect at the National Gallery of Art for over a decade before returning to a private architecture practice. 

Jame Anderson worked as an Architect at the National Gallery of Art for over a decade before returning to a private architecture practice. 

So, let's embrace the cheese…

Everyone wants to believe in themselves, that they have an internal source of power.  It’s the stuff of super-hero movies, and Star Wars (admit it, you tried to move stuff by concentrating on it too).  I’ll be the first to admit, I’m drawn to down-and-out characters saving themselves and others, fighting free.  As an audience, we are totally sucked in by this stuff.  It is a lot more dramatic than seemingly happy people making a change.  Where’s the drama in that?  

In December, I left my position as an Architect at the National Gallery of Art (NGA) to return to private architecture practice at SmithGroupJJR, a company for which I’d worked prior to my 13 years at the NGA.  I was in an absolutely beautiful place, I loved my work and my colleagues at the Gallery.  I was surrounded by the most amazing objects in the world, and felt a sense of fulfillment and a touch of pride in making the Nation’s Collection shine.  I had great federal benefits, a wonderful schedule, and solid, stable pay.  My work was fulfilling, detailed, and my colleagues were driven.  

Sure, there was this lazy person over here, or that crappy office relationship over there, but I typically try not to let those things make my big life decisions for me.  Complaining about the day-to-day, or “sweating the small stuff” was not a part of the decision.  Besides, every workplace has that.  My decision was not about any of those factors.  My decision was about deciding to alter my path. 

This is not a tell-all, nor is it a list of observations of my new job.  This is about the moment of decision.

Changing jobs is not that big of a deal for some people.  For me, this was a pretty big thing.  

You may remember my last post, from January 2015.  I spoke about labels, titles, and life-work. 

Perhaps this was the first step in my “transformation”.  I felt that I was ready to put to greater use the skills I had honed in the field since I walked into my first museum internship at the age of 19. I was beginning to get a bit antsy.  Maybe that Scarlet Letter that some of us try to avoid – Ambition – had something to do with it.  Or, perhaps this disquiet came from not having that next step solidified in front of me: there were clouds at what looked like the top of the ladder.  In order to get to the bottom of this feeling of uncertainty, I started asking questions.

I talked to a lot of people: to mentors, to people who had jobs I could envision myself having, to those who had jobs I’d never want.  Things began to solidify.  I attended the AIA WLS Conference in Seattle and met amazing people, and I sat at a lunch table called “Taking Risks,” although I’m not quite sure why I chose that table… maybe the title was direct and short enough for me. Maybe I felt that I wasn’t taking enough of those.  I listened… really listened.  And I discovered that we are all searching for a place where we feel important, utilized, and a place where we are comfortable and can contribute… and lead.

All of this talking led me to discover that it was time for a change.  But, who wants to move, change jobs, find a new relationship?  It’s easier to do what we know, especially if we’re good at it.  But sometimes, we need to realize that the desire to move on, to do something different, to ‘go boldly where no man has gone before’ is just as human as the desire to stay put, and feel safe.

What was I doing?  I had one of the coolest jobs, EVER!  At parties, people’s eyes widened when I told them what I did for a living.  Visions of Night at the Museum and of the those Mixed-Up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler danced in their heads.  They can be magical places, right?  My daughter, I’m convinced, thought I was working in some fairy tale.  I had been to architecture school with the Gallery as THE goal….but what do you do when you get what you want in the middle of your career?  Sit still?  Camp out?  The more I became an expert, the easier things got.  Perhaps that was it.  I have a great fear of complacency, which is very different than boredom.  My work has never been boring, or easy. But in closing my mascaraed eyes, I took a deep breath and imagined… what would the Shonda Rhimes show of my life look like if I could “design it?”

It wasn’t that the museum was “wrong”.  I was ready for a different path…my own yellow brick road.   Journeys teach us something.  This time, I’m on my own terms:  I’ve picked my specialty,  I have a ton of knowledge many don’t, I’m confident in what I can do, and I’m confident I’ll pick up on the stuff I have no idea how to do.

I want to do more, I think I can, I will.

I was concerned, frankly, about some people’s reactions to my decision.  It takes a lot to get over what you may think other people’s expectations of you are.  I worried a little.  The reaction that had the most impact was my daughter’s. Change and suspense are not thrills for her and we had a fascinating series of conversations about it (which might be yet another post).  I was able to tell her that there was no boogie-man in the office and that she could visit the museum any time.  I think she understood.

You see, support matters.  There is absolutely no way I could do the things I’ve been able to do throughout my life without it.  I’m talking support in the form of a spouse that knows that my work and how I spend my time away from my family is one of my personifiers that makes me ME, in mentors who simply listen and then at times offer suggestions, in friends who give hugs and order champagne when they hear my good news, in parents who made sure I had the most fantastic art teacher they could find, in professors who were direct and supportive, in bosses that hired me for my potential, in a child that gives me hugs and looks up to me as if i am the most impressive thing in the world.  

You have to find support somewhere. You can't isolate yourself, and you can't do it all by yourself.

I’ve been surprised by the responses I’ve received about my “transformation.”  I've heard a lot from folks.  There have been some "Wows", the normal "Congratulations" from others, and the "What about your benefits?" from those who think I'm nuts.  Then, from most architects, an immediate commentary on how difficult my new life will be due to the pace of things, as if there's a secret I don't know.

But I try not to take it as patronizing.  There have been countless articles about women in the workplace that Leaned Back… that selected what's called a slower track or slower paced professions, took time away during their child-bearing and raising years.  I think it’s unfortunate to see choices through these do/don’t filters.  Nevertheless, I didn’t Lean Back, I did exactly what I set out to do when I enrolled in architecture school in the first place: work in a museum designing things.  I tried to be as smart as I could about my career, work in a firm to follow through on my education, and get licensed. It wasn’t for another 5 years that I had my kid. I feel lucky to have been able to do it that way… get ME done first before dealing with mini-ME.

Timing sometimes works, things sometimes fall into place.  But sometimes, you have to do some leaning.

Back to Architecture… this fictional place I left. Now, I can say I’m an Architect with no one asking me what I mean without the addition of the words Exhibit Designer.  Does that matter? People seem to need very cut and dry terms.  People also have a lot of crazy ideas about what an architect is or does… I’m not walking around with a blueprints, although I do still wear a lot of black.  But I don’t allow others to define me.  I am an architect, and I have been one, for quite a while. Now, I hope I am in a place where I can make spaces and containers for beautiful works of art, and also build buildings again, while I look at the greater whole. My experiences are not two separate pieces, they are part of me.

I want both, you see.  Will I get it? Who knows, but there is only one way to find out.

OK, the first month has been weird… honestly… and yet, exhilarating.  I have this headset at my desk and no actual phone (which makes me feel like Brittany Spears or Tom Cruise a la Magnolia).  Not that we used rotary phones at the museum, but you get what I mean.  Then there’s the culture, and the notions of money (profit vs. non-profit) which are quite new.  Most days my new colleagues say things to me and I stare back at them blankly.  Every trade and office carries its own language around, its lingo, its series of acronyms that one has to decipher.  Architects especially are known for their, wait, our, made up words.

I went on my first project interview this week.  It was peculiar not being on the client side of the table.  I felt very “nervicited” (a word from my daughter)  But, feeling uneasy is something I asked for.  Honestly, I question myself too, just like anyone.  Will I succeed? Can I contribute enough?  Will I be good at this again?  It all creeps in.  But I’ve learned to let it go.  No one has all the answers, no one can do it all, and no one is better than you, they are just different.  I just keep reminding myself that I have a ton of knowledge many don’t.  I’m confident in what I can do.  I’m confident I’ll pick up on the stuff I have no idea how to do.

I want to do more, I think I can, I will.  (But I've been here for like 3 months… talk to me in about 6 more.)

In writing this I began to wonder who reads the Inspire blogs? Who are you, reader? If you are mid way through your career, are you keeping up the good fight?  If you are in the beginnings of your life as an architect, or are contemplating a career as one, I’ll leave the cheese and get down to those brass tacks…


Here it is… the unsolicited advice…ready? 

Get licensed.  

Look at it like brushing your teeth… it’s something you have to do. If you never use it that’s another matter entirely. Just get it, and you will have it.

I would not have been at the level I was outside of the profession without this credential. I would not have had any choices in a return to an architecture firm without it.

So many of the other things that affect diversity in practice are non-tangible and seemingly out of our reach. This one is very cut and dry.  It is hard, it is annoying, but it is doable and quantifiable. So, make a plan and follow through. Life gets in the way and always will. I get it.

You can fix it.

Get your license.

Don’t go missing.

Then, go through whatever process you need to in order to figure out what you WANT to do.  Write it all down, talk to folks, imagine your future, go see a fortune teller… whatever.  Design it.  But keep it short, succinct.  Don't get stuck in that planning stage forever… in the time it has taken you to read this long rambling post, you could've gone online and signed up for the exam.  I realize this simplifies everything, but seriously… there is no try there is only do.

Just Do it.

Early Bird Registration for #AIACon15 ENDS Wednesday, March 23rd

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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 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