Courtesy Cranbrook Archives Ben Baldwin, Harry Bertoia, and Eliel Saarinen scrutinize a never-built model c. 1939 for the Smithsonian Gallery of Art.

Courtesy Cranbrook Archives Ben Baldwin, Harry Bertoia, and Eliel Saarinen scrutinize a never-built model c. 1939 for the Smithsonian Gallery of Art.

Last November, the Museum of Modern Art in New York held a symposium to mark the 50th anniversary of the museum’s publication of Robert Venturi, FAIA’s Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. Leafing through the book I was reminded how many historic and modern examples Venturi managed to squeeze into only 105 pages. The last chapter is devoted to the author’s own work, a dozen projects including a shingled beach house with a startlingly tall chimney. This little weekend cottage, designed in 1959, brought Venturi into the architectural limelight. Though never built, it was immediately published in Architectural Design, Vincent Scully called it “the first major project of the new Shingle Style,” and a cardboard model now resides in MoMA’s collection. It is not unusual for unbuilt work to advance an architect’s career—think of Peter Eisenman, FAIA’s House X or Zaha Hadid’s The Peak—and it raises an interesting question. How would their makers’ reputations have fared if such projects had actually been constructed?