Over 11,000 people have now signed the petition for the Pritzker Prize to retrospectively recognise Denise Scott Brown.

Naomi Stead, the editor of the Architectural Theory Review special issue “Women, Practice, Architecture”, has now arranged free online access to Hilde Heynen’s essay “Genius, Gender and Architecture: The Star System as Exemplified in the Pritzker Prize”.

The essay can be downloaded here .

Here are a few excerpts to get you going.

Denise Scott Brown has every reason to be critical of the Pritzker Prize. She was passed over in 1991 when it went to Robert Venturi alone, on the grounds that only an individual was eligible. Ten years later, this argument was abandoned because it would have been inconceivable to honour Herzog above de Meuron (or the other way round), as had happened in the Venturi and Scott Brown case. This was despite both pairs always having presented themselves as a team in which the creativity of the one was indistinguishable from that of the other.

From a feminist point of view, the favouring of individual authorship as exemplified in the Pritzker Prize poses multiple challenges. First of all, as is clear from the above analysis, the architect genius is traditionally gendered male and it is thus inherently difficult for women to fill these shoes. Second, even though the actual practice of the profession might evolve towards more collaboration, both with other architects and with other professions, the cultural system of merit necessitates the continuous production of role models—reinforcing rather than diminishing the impor tance of authorship. Third, the gender bias is so intimately interwoven with the very conception of the profession that it seems an almost insurmountable task to change it.

Architecture thus has become contested territory, no longer the undisputed legacy of the canon or the privileged terrain of white males who have defined avant-garde culture. Diverse groups are asserting their right to make architecture productive and meaningful on their own terms: feminist collectives working to protect women against male violence, subaltern practices seeking to redefine what constitutes heritage and community, urban activists working towards a more just built environment, student groups working with the rural poor, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) focusing on emergency shelter or on the upgrading of slums. These diverse voices and movements, however, have not yet effectuated a profound change in conventional practice and its understanding of disciplinary boundaries.

… an institution like the Pritzker Prize is completely intertwined with such conventional understanding and, hence, cannot avoid displaying the traces of its patriarchal genealogy. To effect change in practice, however, is something that requires more than just accurate insight. Intellectually understanding the robustness of the system might be a first step towards its transformation, but it does not suffice to attain that goal, as is made clear by the evidence cited above.

Hilde Heynen ”Genius, Gender and Architecture: The Star System as Exemplified in the Pritzker Prize”, Architectural Theory Review, vol 17, issue 2–3.