The AIA has named Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown the winners of the 2016 AIA Gold Medal. The honor, the AIA’s highest, goes to architects whose work is likely to have a lasting influence on the practice of architecture, design, and related fields.
The Philadelphia-based architects’ most recognizable works include the 1964 Vanna Venturi House, in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania; the Seattle Art Museum (1985); and the Provincial Capitol Building in Toulouse (1999).
In addition to buildings, they designed furniture, most notably the Chippendale chair, a postmodern take on the ornate Colonial furniture of Thomas Chippendale.
Scott Brown and Venturi co-authored Learning from Las Vegas: the Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form (1977) and Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), two texts that analyzed postmodernity in architecture and the American landscape. The award, to be bestowed next year, comes on the 50th anniversary of the publishing of the latter text.
The couple works together on most projects. In 2013, the AIA revised its selection criteria to allow the award to be granted jointly, perhaps in response to the Pritzker Prize committee’s famous exclusion of Scott Brown, granting the prize to Venturi only in 1991. A 2013 petition initiated by students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design to retroactively honor Scott Brown (and signed by Venturi himself) was rejected by the committee.
Last year, the AIA granted the gold medal to Moshe Safdie. Venturi and Scott Brown’s legacy will be set in stone: each gold medal winner has his or her name chiseled into the granite Wall of Honor at the AIA headquarters in Washington, D.C.