Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi Win AIA Gold Medal

John Hill
3. December 2015
Photo: Courtesy of American Planning Association

The American Institute of Architects has named the influential Postmodern architects from Philadelphia the 2016 recipients of the AIA Gold Medal, the first duo to receive the honor since the AIA allowed collaborations two years ago.

The AIA's 2013 decision to move away from only awarding the Gold Medal to individuals coincided with vocal calls for a retroactive Pritzker Architecture Prize for Scott Brown (Venturi, her husband, won it in 1991) and the prize committee's refusal to do so regardless of an online petition that now has more than 20,000 signatures.

The Gold Medal might not make up for that snub, but as the AIA's highest honor it is "a great day for architecture," said Scott Brown, quoted at Architect, upon hearing the news, "not because of us, but because of everyone who follows." In addition to being the first pair to win the Gold Medal, Scott Brown is the first living woman to receive it in its nearly 110-year history; Julia Morgan, the first and only other woman to win the award, received it posthumously in 2014.

Vanna Venturi House (Photo: Courtesy of Kurfiss/Sotheby's)

The award acknowledges the decades of work produced by the duo's firm, Venturi Scott Brown Associates, which was relaunched as VSBA Architects & Planners in 2012 after Venturi retired. Notable buildings include Venturi's design for his mother's house, which went up for sale in July, the Guild House in Philadelphia, the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery of Art in London, and dozens of university buildings on campuses around the United States.

But the award also acknowledges the strong theoretical underpinnings articulated in books that influenced the course of architecture: Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (Venturi, 1966) and Learning from Las Vegas (Venturi, Scott Brown and Steven Izenour, 1972). Although the duo never considered themselves postmodern, these books and their numerous high-profile buildings opened the flood gates to PoMo designs in the 1970s and 1980s.

Scott Brown and Venturi will receive the AIA Gold Medal at the 2016 AIA National Convention, which takes place, fittingly, in Philadelphia, where they have lived and practiced for more than 50 years.

Denise Scott Brown in Las Vegas in the 1960s (Photo: VSBA)

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