Last Tuesday, I made my wall all the way across Cambridge to the GSD to see Denise Scott Brown. While much of the talk walked the audience through her three careers in South Africa, the A.A. and then the US, there are two points she made that stuck out to me that I’ll echo here.
The first was her gratitude for the Pritzker Prize petition started by the Women in Design student group at the GSD. I had heard a bit about the petition but it was meaningful to hear Scott Brown put the issue in a broader context of a “women’s cause” in both architecture and beyond. She’s dubbed herself the “grandmother of architecture” and her grateful, humorous, and gentle attitude towards all those who support her certainly made this epithet stick. So, I figured I should do what I can to keep it alive and pass it on to you.
Second, through much of the talk she showed her personal photographs from Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and other urban landscapes. She repeated the directive, “don’t think, just shoot” a few times throughout the night. For Scott Brown, photography is a way to explore, without self-editing, topics such as her own urban romantic tendencies, topologies, and urban renewal. I think this is great advice – just shoot. Find something that interests you and photograph it, draw it, write about it, think about it, all obsessively, and see what happens. Maybe nothing… or maybe something like the amazing body of photographs published in Learning From Las Vegas. Her approach is to be optimistic and to try things out and investigate ideas before knowing where they will lead. If I can take on this approach, I’ll surely be a better designer.
What made the night just a bit more memorable was the palpable excitement I could feel throughout the audience at the end of the talk. A classmate was beaming as we exited Piper Hall and confessed the lecture was the first time since school’s begun that she’s felt truly inspired and related so directly to a lecturer or reading. With a constant flow of invitations to lectures and special events arriving in our inboxes, it’s hard to sort out which to attend. But, I guess I should take Scott Brown’s advice and just shoot… or rather, go to lectures.