Distinguished Women of Past and Present

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Denise Scott Brown

Scott Brown, Denise (1931- ), African-born American urban planner, architect, and teacher, known for her contributions to theoretical research and education on the nature of cities. With her husband and collaborator, architect Robert Venturi, she launched a critique of architectural modernism that led to the development of alternative strategies for urban design during the 1960s and 1970s. She was born in Nkana, Zambia, and raised in a suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa. She attended the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg from 1948 to 1952, and then studied at the Architectural Association in London, England, graduating in 1955. After traveling and working in Italy and England, she came to the United States with her first husband, the late Robert Scott Brown. She received a master of city planning degree in 1960 and a master of architecture degree in 1965 from the University of Pennsylvania. While teaching at the university she met Venturi, and they married in 1967. Following her graduate study, Scott Brown taught urban planning at various prominent universities, experimenting with interdisciplinary studio courses for architects, social scientists, and urban designers. While teaching with Venturi at Yale University from 1967 to 1970, she designed the Learning from Las Vegas and Learning from Levittown studio classes. In these innovative collaborative research courses, architects studied problems in the built environment using empirical methods and drawing from media studies, pop art, and social science-thus greatly expanding the scope of architectural design. The 1972 book Learning from Las Vegas, which Scott Brown cowrote with Venturi and Steven Izenour, chronicled their findings and stirred controversy in the architecture field by suggesting that "low art" sources such as supermarket parking lots, the roadside commercial strip, and gambling casino advertising offered valuable lessons in design. In 1967 Scott Brown joined her husband's architecture firm, and soon after began directing the firm's planning, urban design, and architectural programming work. Among other projects in the 1970s she and her colleagues at Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates pioneered preservation planning for historic districts in Galveston, Texas, and Miami Beach, Florida. In the 1980s they developed a plan for downtown Memphis, Tennessee. In the 1990s Scott Brown was pivotal in preparing the master plan and schematic design for the Denver Civic Center Cultural Complex in Denver, Colorado; preparing campus plans for Dartmouth College and the University of Pennsylvania; and developing architectural requirements for the Smithsonian Institution's Museum of the American Indian. Scott Brown has lectured widely and received many honorary degrees and awards.

Contributed by: Mark A. Hewitt

"Scott Brown, Denise" Microsoft(R) Encarta.
Copyright(c) 1995 Microsoft Corporation.