Knoll Designer Bios

Denise Scott Brown

b. Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), 1931

After studying architecture at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, and the Architectural Association School of Architecture, Denise Lakofski moved with her husband and fellow architect Robert Scott Brown to Philadelphia to enroll in the planning department at the University of Pennsylvania. (Robert Scott Brown died tragically in a car accident in 1959.)

After completing her Master’s degree in city planning there in 1960, Scott Brown joined the faculty. Almost instantly, Scott Brown and Venturi became friends, partners, and critics. They married in 1967, the same year that Scott Brown joined Venturi and Rauch. Scott Brown later became a partner in the firm in 1969 leading the VSRB’s planning initiatives. It was because of Scott Brown’s interest in Las Vegas that the couple, along with Steven Izenour, wrote the seminal 1972 book Learning From Las Vegas: the Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form. Together Venturi and Scott Brown electrified the postmodern movement with controversial writings and buildings that challenged the modernist rejection of ornamentation and introduced whimsy and wit into what they felt had become an overly severe discipline.

The collection of chairs, tables and sofa created for Knoll in the 1980s by Venturi and Scott-Brown served as a physical statement of their willingness to reference and indulge in the more traditionally ornate styles of design. The chairs exemplified Venturi’s fascination with the façade; the idea that period styling could be applied for purely decorative purposes to a more functionalist frame. Breaking down barriers between traditional and modern design, Venturi’s collection incorporated a wide range of major historical furniture styles such as, Chippendale, Queen Anne, Empire, Hepplewhite, Sheraton, Biedermeier, Gothic Revival, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco.

Over the course of her career, Scott Brown has been celebrated for her important contributions to the architecture and planning fields. Most recently, she was given the 2010 Edmund N. Bacon Prize at the Philadelphia Center for Architecture and the 2007 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards’ Design Mind Award along with Robert Venturi. A recent campaign has been initiated for an “inclusion” ceremony to adjust the 1991 Pritzker Prize received by Robert Venturi in recognition of Scott Brown’s essential and equal role in their design partnership.

Scott Brown continues to write about and publish her takes on issues in architecture.