Denise Scott Brown - More Than a Partner

b. 1931

Architect Denise Scott Brown in 2013
Denise Scott Brown in 2013. Photo by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images for Lilly Awards/©2013 Getty Images (cropped)

When Denise Scott Brown met and married Robert Venturi, she had already made important contributions to the field of urban design. Through her work as an urban planner and her collaboration with Robert Venturi, she has brought the artifacts of popular culture into the realm of architecture and has shaped our understanding of the relationship between design and society.



October 3, 1931 to Jewish parents in Nkana, Zambia.

Raised in a suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa.


  • Attended University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, 1948 to 1952
  • Architectural Association in London, England, graduated in 1955
  • University of Pennsylvania, Master of City Planning in 1960, and Master of Architecture in 1965


Partnered with her husband Robert Venturi in the firm Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates (VSBA). For decades Brown has directed the firm's urban planning, urban design, and campus planning work.

Important Works:

  • 1970s: Preservation planning for historic districts in Galveston, Texas and Miami Beach, Florida
  • 1980s: City plan for downtown Memphis, Tennessee
  • 1990s: Helped prepare the master plan and schematic design for the Denver Civic Center Cultural Complex in Denver, Colorado. Also created campus plans for Dartmouth College and the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Advised on urban planning and design for New York's World Trade Center site


    • With Robert Venturi and Steven Izenour, wrote Learning from Las Vegas, The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form. The controversial book presented the idea that architects could learn important lessons in design from commercial art like billboards and casino ads.
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    • With Robert Venturi, wrote Architecture as Signs and Systems for a Mannerist Time (Harvard University Press, 2004)
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    • AA Words 4: Having Words, London: Architectural Association, 2009
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    • 1985: AIA Firm Award
    • 1992: National Medal of Arts, U.S. Presidential award
    • 1996: ACSA-AIA Joint Award for Excellence in Architecture Education, Topaz Medallion
    • 2002: Edith Wharton Women of Achievement Award for Urban Planning; and the Vincent J. Scully Prize, National Building Museum, with Robert Venturi
    • 2005: Harvard Radcliffe Institute Medal
    • 2007: The Vilcek Prize, awarded to a foreign-born American, for outstanding achievement in the arts (architecture) and for contribution to society in the U.S., The Vilcek Foundation
    • 2007: Athena Award, awarded to pioneers who have laid the foundation for New Urbanism, Congress for New Urbanism
    • 2010: International Award, The Society of American Registered Architects (SARA), Philadelphia, PA, with Robert Venturi
    • 2016: American Institute of Architects (AIA) Gold Medal, with Robert Venturi

    Quotes by Denise Scott Brown:

    • "... we are not Postmodernists, and never were. The origins of our thinking are more complex than that and have more sources."
      -Lessons About Architecture from Planning, Metropolis magazine at
    • "A new openness in the minds and eyes of architects should help their ideals to be pragmatic ones and their utopias to be humane."
      -from "Changing Family Forms" On Houses & Housing, VSBA website [accessed June 17, 2012]

      Related People:

      "After over fifty years as one of the world's preeminent architects, Robert Venturi has retired from practice, while Denise Scott Brown continues to publish and present her work. For information about Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates, Inc.'s work — including projects and bibliography — please visit" [Source: VSBA website, accessed August 13, 2012]

      Learn More:

      • A Difficult Whole: A Reference Book on the Work of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown by Architecture Without Content, 2016
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