The Denise Scott Brown Effect: AIA Revises Criteria for Gold Medal Award

The Denise Scott Brown Effect: AIA Revises Criteria for Gold Medal Award

Rob Venturi and Denise Scott Brown
Rob Venturi and Denise Scott Brown.

The AIA Gold Medal Award is the highest honor an architect can receive from the American Institute of Architects. Until now, the award could only be presented to individual architects, but the AIA has just announced that as of January 1, 2014 this prestigious award will be open to an individual or two individuals who have equally collaborated on the design and execution of one distinguished architectural body of work that makes a lasting statement on the theory and practice of architecture.

The revision was prompted by the recent controversial campaign, led by a group of passionate young women architects, to retroactively confer the Pritzker Architecture Prize to Denise Scott Brown. Twenty-two years ago the architect was excluded from the award when it was granted to her husband and equal partner, Robert Venturi, in 1999. The Pritzker jury has refused to revisit it’s decision, denying Denise Scott Brown the award.

In reference to the AIA’s recent revisions to the criteria for the Gold Medal Award, AIA President, Mickey Jacob said in a press release, “This is an idea that has been percolating for several years and we feel that the decision to make this important and historic change better reflects the changing nature of architectural practice that has become increasingly more collaborative. We took a careful, measured approach to the implications that this decision will have on the award itself and we are confident that this is a positive change for the architecture profession going forward.”

In the past the AIA Gold Medal has been bestowed upon world-renowned architects such as Louis Sullivan (1944), Frank Gehry (1999), Steven Holl (2012), and this year, to Thom Mayne. This year’s Gold Medalist has been recognized for his outstanding designs for projects such as 41 Cooper Square in New York City, The San Francisco Federal Building, and the Giant Group Campus in Shanghai. So far, however, a woman has yet to receive the distinction.