Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Marcel Sedletzky Archive,
Date (inclusive): 1946-1995
Collection number: MS 46
University of California, Santa Cruz. University Library.
Special Collections and Archives
Santa Cruz, California 95064
Abstract: This collection contains Marcel Sedletzky's architectural projects & teaching slide collection, architectural renderings and
plans, project photographs and a limited amount of personal papers and project correspondence.
Physical location: Stored offsite at NRLF: Advance notice is required for access to the papers.
Collection is open for research.
Box 57 is RESTRICTED.
Property rights reside with the University of California. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and
their heirs. For permission to publish or to reproduce the material, please contact the Head of Special Collections and Archives.
Marcel Sedletzky Archive. MS 46. Special Collections and Archives, University Library, University of California, Santa Cruz.
Gift of Barbara Sedletzky in 2001.
Marcel Eugen Sedletzky was born March 29, 1923 to Elena and Apollon Sedletzky in Tsaritsyn (now Volgograd), Russia, a port
city on the Volga River. Sedletzky's Polish father was an architect who worked primarily in landscape design, while his mother
was a physician. In the early 1930's everything changed dramatically for the Sedletzky family when Apollon was taken away
by uniformed Bolshevik soldiers and sent to Siberia. Mother and son fled to Poland, where Apollon's family lived. After
an unknown length of time there, long enough however for Sedletzky to attend elementary school, they moved south, where he
attended the German-run Real Gymnasium for Men in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. He graduated in 1941 with a Matura degree, the equivalent
to two years of junior college in the United States.
Not much is known of his activities during World War II, although both Sedletzky and his mother were conscripted into the
German army, where the two of them worked behind the front lines. Sedletzky rode a motorcycle, clearing the way for ambulances
en route from the front to the field hospital where his mother worked. The war's end found Sedletzky and his mother living
near the town of Zell am See in Austria.
In 1946, he entered the Technische Hochschule (today the Technical University) in Graz, Austria, where he began pursuing an
interest in engineering and industrial design with a focus on architecture. During his course of study he participated in
least one workshop with Le Corbusier, the influential Swiss-born architect who was among the leaders of the International
Style. After two years at the school, while working simultaneously in Zell am See as a junior draftsman, Sedletzky and his
mother, like thousands of other displaced persons, left Europe on a ship bound for New York. Originally assigned to a sponsoring
family in Kansas, they instead went to Indianapolis and worked as domestics for the attorney Warrack Wallace and his wife.
With the Wallaces' help, Sedletzky gained admission to the University of Cincinnati, in spite of his limited English skills.
In 1950, at the age of 27, he entered an accelerated program established to allow men whose academic pursuits had been interrupted
by the war to move more rapidly through course work and on-the-job training. Sedletzky graduated in June 1952 with a B.S.
in Architecture. While at the university, he met and married his first wife Gunnel Rodën, a Swedish woman several years his
junior who had come to Cincinnati to study art.
Following graduation and a move to California, Sedletzky was hired into planning office of the architectural firm Victor Gruen
and Associates in Los Angeles. Run by two other émigrés, Victor Gruen and Rudolf L. Baumfeld, VGA was one of the nation's
prime players in urban planning and shopping center design in the 1950's and 1960's. Sedletzky worked first as a designer,
then as staff architect, staff planner, and project director at VGA, becoming an associate planner in 1956. He was involved
in a number of the firm's large projects in the U.S. and internationally. In addition to his more traditional staff role
at VGA, Sedletzky for several years taught a course on perspective drawing to other staff members. His small class met at
the office one night a week, and was, according to former colleagues, "the absolutely perfect class on perspective."
Though immersed in the busy world of Victor Gruen and Associates, and perhaps in part because he was frustrated by doing more
planning than architecture, Sedletzky found time to explore residential design projects on his own. In 1957, after receiving
his California architecture license, he designed a small Hollywood Hills house for a Russian family, the Shevtzoffs, who were
friends and camping companions of the Sedletzkys. The Shevtzoffs' house was never built, but his spare, soft pencil, drawings
reflect the clean, rectilinear purity of residences designed in mid-century Los Angeles.
Sedletzky left Victor Greun Associates to take a job in Carmel with the small architectural firm of Robert C. Jones. His mother
and her second husband, a Russian instructor at the Defense Language Institute, had preceded him in the move to the Monterey
Peninsula. Sedletzky rose quickly in the Jones firm, becoming the unofficial principal designer in the office. From the outset,
he demonstrated expertise in planning and design innovation, and in the production of presentation drawings. Jones's appreciation
of his new employee's talents translated into free reign for Sedletzky. As he had done in Los Angeles, Sedletzky eagerly
explored the spectacular environment around Carmel. He hiked more than ever before, alone or with his wife and three children.
By the time he left the Jones firm in 1960 to launch a private architectural practice, Sedletzky had acquired a set of skills
and experiences that provided a strong underpinning for a bold designer who was not afraid to strike out anew. He had a natural
talent at both engineering and drawing, and his European and American architectural training had sharpened those innate skills.
The years at Victor Gruen Associates steeped him in the complexities of planning, and the time at Jones gave him confidence
in his ability to translate a vision into a practical, buildable set of plans.
Marcel conducted his solo practice in Carmel for fourteen years until he moved to San Luis Obispo in 1974 to teach at California
Polytechnic State University. During his Carmel years he had managed to bring fifteen houses to completion and design numerous
other projects that never advanced beyond sketches. One house per year was an all consuming job that meant he never made much
money and the occassional lulls led to hiring himself out for part-time work. Another added pressure was the dissolution of
his marriage to Gunnel. For the first time Sedletzky began think and look beyond Carmel. Paul Neel, a friend who was the director
of the architecture program at Cal Poly, invited him to teach a class in January 1972. In spite of some initial trepidation,
Sedletzky enjoyed the change of pace and indicated he would like to increase his involvement from lecturer to a full tenured
position. This meant he would have to return to school for an advanced degree. He was accepted into UC Berkeley's Masters
in Architecture program in January 1973 and graduate the same year in December. In March 1974, he was hired as an Associate
Professor of Architecture at Cal Poly. Later that year, Marcel closed his practice in Carmel and moved to San Luis Obispo
with his second wife Barbara. Although he would continue to design additions and remodels for previous clients and his own
Casa Concha, the days of bold ideas translated into dramatic houses were essentially behind him. He retired from teaching
in 1992 and moved permanently to Casa Concha in Bahia Kino, Mexico where he died in 1995.
Sedletzky managed to balance and integrate two powerful, radically different views of architecture, manifest in the writings
and work of his two heroes, Le Corbusier the modernist and Wright the proselytizing "organicist," the European and the American.
Perhaps because he was an immigrant himself, born in one world and working in another, Sedletzky was able to meld the two
visions of the built world , and, over the course of a dozen years, from 1960 until 1973, to translate theoretical notions
into distinctive and sometimes extraordinary residences on the Central Coast of California.
Marcel Sedletzky: Architect and Teacher by Bill Staggs.
Scope and Content of Collection
The majority of this archive is Sedletzky's slide collections for documenting his architectural projects and for illustrating
his teaching & lectures. In addition, there are architectural sketches, renderings, and plans for the projects, both built
and not built, showcasing Sedletzky's drawing abilities, along with project photographs. There is also a limited amount of
personal papers and project correspondence and notes. The reference books have been cataloged separately.
The material has been arranged into five series:
Series 1 Slide Collection, 1955-1995
Series 2 Biographical Material, 1946-1995
Series 3 Archictectural Projects, 1950-1995
Series 4 Photographs & Negatives, 1955-1995
Series 5 Restricted Material, undated
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Carmel (Calif.)--Buildings, structures, etc.
Monterey (Calif.)--Buildings, structures, etc.
Architecture, Modern--20th century--California, Central Coast
Architect designed houses--California, Central Coast
Architecture, Domestic--Designs and plans
Staggs, Bill (2002)
Marcel Sedletzky: Architect and Teacher. Santa Cruz, CA. Wild Coast Press, Special Collections, University of California, Santa Cruz.