education

Good riddance, Pritzker

Earlier today the Pritzker jury decided to do away with any good that the prize has ever done. Refusing to retroactively acknowledge Denise Scott Brown's contribution in the work of the firm that she shares with Robert Venturi, the jury voted instead to affirm its patriarchal authority. See the piece on the topic in Architect Magazine

Curiously, the Pritzker has previously been awarded to Ryue Nishizawa alongside Kazuyo Sejima. Not to denigrate his contribution, but I have heard SANAA referred to as "Sejima" as often, if not more, than I have heard VSBA referred to as "Venturi." Why the double standard? 

The sort of patronizing language used in the letter by Lord Palumbo is all too familiar. It is the voice of money and authority, the same sort of voice that spoke out against the rights of the women, the poor, and minorities. It is, alas, the voice of what Brown describes as the "sad white men's award."     

I see no way in which we can, in good conscience, think of the Pritzker as being anything but a detriment to the profession. Indeed, the entire notion of the Pritzker Prize stands testament to the misguided fallacy of architecture as the work of solitary geniuses, ignoring that it is almost inevitably a team product. Now we may give awards to individuals at school (although at Columbia we have also split those awards among partners), that is a special case in which students are work, in most cases, individually. Practice, particularly at the large scale that the Pritzker typically lauds, is another. 

After three decades of affirming much that is wrong about our profession, the Pritzkzer has run its course. If, collectively, we decide that it is invalid and pay it no heed, it will die. And die it must. There should be no second chances for an institution as bankrupt as this one. 

$100,000 a year is a lot of money. It's time to shut the Pritzker down and give that to people who need it, not to a bunch of well off sad, white men. Why not put take the list of countries ranked worldwide by GDP and distribute the money to needy students in countries in the bottom half? Jay Pritzker's money would be doing much more for the profession. At least it wouldn't be perpetuating misogyny.

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