Downtown Denise Scott Brown
– 18 March 2019
Today Denise Scott Brown is considered to be an icon of postmodern architecture. The rightful recognition for her work, however, has come late. The Architekturzentrum in Vienna is honouring the architect and urban planner at the age of 87 with a comprehensive retrospective for the first time anywhere in the world.
Scott Brown graduated from the renowned Architectural Association School of Architecture in London in 1955, enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia three years later, completing her master’s degree in urban planning in 1960 and in architecture in 1965. In addition to her own teaching at Philadelphia, she later taught at Harvard, Los Angeles, Berkley, and Yale. Scott Brown’s academic career alone makes for impressive reading. All too often, however, her practical work remained in the shadow of her husband Robert Venturi, with whom she worked from 1967 until his death in 2018. The fact that her own name lagged behind that of her husband may also be due to the fact that she brushed aside any myths about architecture and, contrary to any romantic concept of genius, placed collective creative effort at the forefront.
The sonorous title “Downtown Denise Scott Brown” already refers to the urban focus of Scott Brown’s work. Accordingly, the exhibition space itself has been transformed into an archetypal urban space. A papier mâché fountain designated as monument stands in the centre and is surrounded by urban facades and shop windows. Using articles, photos, plans, and videos, the exhibition traces an arc to the childhood of this Zambian-born woman. The collage-like exhibits are often as colourful and eclectic as the illuminated signs of Las Vegas, with whose urban space Scott Brown intensely engaged. Her work was the driving force behind the influential book project “Learning from Las Vegas”, making it possible to read the commercial kitsch of the cityscape as an urban palimpsest.
The exhibition at the Architekturzentrum in Vienna runs until 18 March 2019.