The fight to get Denise Scott Brown co-credit for Robert Venturi’s Pritzker Prize has touched a nerve with women architects. Hear Scott Brown talk with Guy Horton about keeping it equal as a creative couple, in an unequal profession. Alissa Walker talks to another designing duo Makoto Mizutani and Benjamin Luddy of Scout Regalia, about keeping their business local, and their 24/7 partnership interesting. Michael Jaime-Becerra narrates “Michael and Rosita,” an Iconic Wilshire Boulevard story of a love that began in MacArthur Park.
Learning from Denise Scott Brown
Denise Scott Brown is an architect and planner who was born in South Africa and in the late 1960s became the wife and work partner of the architect Robert Venturi. Before she joined his firm, he had already attracted attention for his subversive, postmodern Vanna Venturi House built for his mother in Philadelphia (below); and a book, “Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture,” that offered up a “gentle manifesto for a non-straightforward architecture,” in opposition to what he saw then as the purism of modernism.
After partnering up with Denise Scott Brown, the pair became one of the most famous couples in architecture, influencing a generation with their research-based book, “Learning from Las Vegas,” below right.
Then, in 1991, Robert Venturi was awarded the Pritzker prize, the highest architectural award. Denise Scott Brown was not co-credited.
This past March, two students from the Women in Design organization at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design decided to rectify what they saw as a deep injustice, and launched a petition, making the case that Denise Scott Brown should receive co-credit for Venturi’s Pritzker. The petition garnered thousands of signatures and public support from prominent architects including Rem Koolhaas, himself a Pritzker laureate.
Some have argued that Robert Venturi should have taken responsibility for the inequity, by rejecting the prize when he was offered it. Others say that Venturi did his best architectural work before Scott Brown joined his firm. For many though, the omission stands as emblematic of the challenges that women face in gaining equal acceptance in the profession of architecture.
Guy Horton is an architectural journalist, who met up with Denise Scott Brown recently when she was staying in LA, before the jury announced its decision. He talked to her about the joys and challenges of designing — and parenting – together, as well as maintaining equality in a profession long dominated at the highest levels by men. Scott Brown, who grew up in South Africa with a Modernist architect mother, envisioned the same path from the age of four, and says she was surprised when she arrived at architecture school and found it to be mostly male: “I looked around and said, what are all these men doing here, because I thought architecture was obviously women’s work.”
In the second segment of this DnA, we continue our coverage of LA designers. And this week’s focus happens to be on another male-female couple, who also trained in architecture, but started their career at a very different time from Scott Brown and Venturi.
Makoto Mizutani and Benjamin Luddy (right, with Penny, their Belgian Malinois puppy) are the two halves of Scout Regalia, a young design firm that is building itself a reputation for hardy, locally crafted spaces and products that are inspired by LA’s outdoorsy life.
The name, explains Benjamin Luddy, ”can be translated to humble ornament. It’s part of our vision for design that is modern without being sterile; warm without being fussy. Our goal is to create objects and spaces that are inviting and can evoke a sense of community.”
Alissa Walker met them in their Echo Park studio and home, furnished with some of their products: a powder coated steel and oak hardwood junior ranger stool (see their SR Ranger Stool, in special custom green, on DnA Design Picks at the KCRW store); a teepee, below left, with one of their picnic tables underneath; a brightly colored bike; and a DIY garden box, above left, where they make the brackets and give buyers instructions on how to source the wood and construct it.
Alissa learned from the SCI-Arc grads about transitioning from buildings to products and back again, and what it means to be working and living together, 24/7. She also found out how they relax after a hard day’s creative collaboration: by eating together and talking about Penny, their 8-month old puppy. (Speaking of dogs, check out this designer doggy furniture show.)
Iconic Wilshire Boulevard: Michael Jaime-Becerra
This past Sunday thousands pedaled and walked the stretch of Wilshire Boulevard between downtown and Fairfax Avenue, free of the cars. It was another hugely successful cicLAvia but this one came with a taste of architecture as well.
As part of Pacific Standard Time Presents Modern Architecture in L.A., the Getty sponsored a series of stories, bringing to life the buildings and planning that shaped a strip built largely during the zenith of car culture.
Today’s is a love story, born in Macarthur Park, a place much changed, says Michael Jaime-Becerra, since the days when his parents Rosita and Michael met there and went boating on a gentle lake (image, right, shows the park in 1950).