Main content

Robert Venturi letters to Martin Filler and Rosemarie H. Bletter


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

Robert Venturi was born June 25, 1925, and is an influential American architect based in Philadelphia, PA. With his wife, Denise Scott Brown, he founded Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates. He graduated from Princeton in 1947 and earned his master of fine arts degree at Princeton as well in 1950. He worked under Eero Saarinen and Louis Kahn before being awarded with the Rome Prize Fellowship at the American Academy of Rome in 1954, where he studied for two years. Venturi taught at the University of Pennsylvania, at the Yale School of Architecture, and at Howard's Graduate School of Design. In 1966, Venturi published his architectural manifesto, "Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture" and in 1972, he published Learning from Las Vegas along with Scott Brown and Steven Izenour. The terms the "duck" and the "decorated shed" were both coined in Learning from Las Vegas.

Martin Filler was born on September 17, 1948, and is a prominent architecture critic. He received his BA in Art History from Columbia College in 1970 and his MA from Columbia University's Department of Art History and Archaeology in 1972. Filler was an editor for House & Garden from 1979 until 2007 and was a contributing editor at Vanity Fair from 1990 to 1994. From 1999 to 2003, he was the architecture critic for The New Republic. He was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004. Filler wrote and published several books on modern architecture, including Makers of Modern Architecture: From Frank Lloyd Wright to Frank Gehry in 2007. He has written critiques for the New York Review of Books since 1985.

Rosemarie Haag Bletter was born February 27, 1939, in Heilbronn, Germany and is an American architectural historian, professor, writer and lecturer. She received her BS, MA and PhD from Columbia University. Bletter has taught at Yale, Columbia, the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University and CUNY Graduate Center. She organized the 1975 Brooklyn Museum exhibition, "Skyscraper Style," and was a curator of the 1985 Whitney Museum of American Art exhibition "High Styles: Twentieth Century American Design." Bletter and Filler wrote and conducted three documentary films, including Beyond Utopia: Changing Attitudes in American Architecture (1983) which features Venturi.

This collection contains letters from Robert Venturi to Martin Filler and Rosemarie Bletter from 1983 to 2011. There are also a few letters from the other half of the Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates partnership, Denise Scott Brown (Venturi's wife), as well as a few letters from Venturi to others, to which Filler and Bletter were presumably copied. The letters are a blend of personal and professional and include letters from Venturi praising Filler's articles and criticisms, letters discussing Venturi's career, and letters about references. In these letters, Venturi and Scott Brown's idea of "the duck and the decorated shed" is mentioned, along with the partners' Learning from Las Vegas book and studio class. The letters from 1983 to 1990 are primarily personal, with a few letters concerning Filler's critiques and a discussion of Bletter's Beyond Utopia, in which Venturi is featured. From 1991 to 2000, there are several letters concerning critiques, a letter from Venturi asking Filler to critique his new book, discussion of the "duck and the decorated shed" and Learning from Las Vegas, discussion of a letter of recommendation for Bletter to the Guggenheim, and of a Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates project in Toulouse, France. There are also letters regarding, architectural drawings of, and photographs of personal tombstones that Filler and Bletter commissioned from Venturi. Several versions of the designs of the tombstones (for Filler and Bletter) are included in the collection as well as photographs of Venturi with the mocked-up project.

Gift of Martin Filler and Rosemarie H. Bletter, 2014.

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Finding Aid Author
Kelin Baldridge
Finding Aid Date
2016 October 28
Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Collection Inventory

Request to View Materials

Materials can be requested by first logging in to Aeon. Then, click on the ADD button next to any containers you wish to request. When complete, click the Request button.

Request item to view
Letters, 1983-1990.
Box 1 Folder 1
Letters, 1990-2000.
Box 1 Folder 2
Letters, 2001-2011.
Box 1 Folder 3
Filler and Bletter tombstone project, designs and photographs of Filler's and Bletter's tombstones, 2002-2006.
Box 1 Folder 4
Filler and Bletter tombstone project, designs and photographs of Filler's and Bletter's tombstones, 2002-2006.
Drawer 107 Folder unknown container

Print, Suggest