Denise Scott Brown

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Denise Scott Brown in 1978, photographed by Lynn Gilbert

Denise Scott Brown (née Lakofski; born October 3, 1931) is an American architect, planner, writer, educator, and principal of the firm Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates in Philadelphia. Denise Scott Brown and her husband and partner, Robert Venturi, are regarded among the most influential architects of the twentieth century, both through their architecture and planning, and theoretical writing and teaching.


  • Architects shouldn't play God.
    • "Pop Off: Reply to Kenneth Frampton"
  • Most professional women can recount ‘horror stories’ about discrimination they have suffered during their careers. My stories include social trivia as well as grand trauma. But some less common forms of discrimination came my way when, in mid-career, I married a colleague and we joined our professional lives just as fame (though not fortune) hit him. I watched as he was manufactured into an architectural guru before my eyes and, to some extent, on the basis of our joint work and the work of our firm.
    • "Sexism and the star system in architecture"
  • The social trivia (what Africans call petty apartheid) continue too: ‘wives’ dinners’ (‘We’ll just let the architects meet together, my dear’); job interviews where the presence of ‘the architect’s wife’ distressed the board; dinners I must not attend because an influential member of the client group wants ‘the architect’ as her date; Italian journalists who ignore Bob’s request that they address me because I understand more Italian than he does; the tunnel vision of students toward Bob; the ‘so you’re the architect!’ to Bob, and the wellmeant ‘so you’re an architect too?’ to me.
    • "Sexism and the star system in architecture"
  • I now receive inquiries of interest for deanships and departmental chairs several times a year. I find myself on committees where I am the only woman and there is one black man. We two tokens greet each other wryly. I am frequently invited to lecture at architecture schools, ‘to be a role model for our girls.’ I am happy to do this for their young women but I would rather be asked purely because my work is interesting.
    • "Sexism and the star system in architecture"
  • Faced with unmeasurables, people steer their way by magic. Before the invention of navigational instruments, a lady was carved on the prow of the boat to help sailors cross the ocean; and architects, grappling with the intangibles of design, select a guru whose work gives them personal help in areas where there are few rules to follow. The guru, as architectural father figure, is subject to intense hate and love; either way, the relationship is personal, it can only be a one-to-one affair. This accounts for the intensely ad hominem stance of some of ‘Venturi’s’ critics. If the attribution were correct the tone would be more even, as one cannot easily wax emotional over several people. I suspect, too, that for male architects the guru must be male. There can be no Mom and Pop gurus in architecture. The architectural prima donnas are all male.
    • "Sexism and the star system in architecture"
  • Over the years, it has slowly dawned on me that the people who cause my painful experiences are ignorant and crude. They are the critics who have not read enough and the clients who do not know why they have come to us. I have been helped to realise this by noticing that the scholars whose work we most respect, the clients whose projects intrigue us, and the patrons whose friendship inspires us, have no problem understanding my role. They are the sophisticates. Partly through them I gain heart and realise that, over the last twenty years, I have managed to do my work and, despite some sliding, to achieve my own self-respect.
    • "Sexism and the star system in architecture"

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