Marcel Lajos Breuer
(21 May 1902 PÃ©cs, Hungary â€“ 1 July 1981 New York City), architect and furniture designer, was an
influential Hungarian-born modernist of Jewish descent.
One of the masters of Modernism,
Breuer displayed interest in modular construction and simple
Life and work
Known to his friends and associates as LajkÃ³, Breuer studied and
taught at the Bauhaus
in the 1920s. The
Bauhaus curriculum stressed the simultaneous education of its
students in elements of visual art, craft and the technology of
industrial production. Breuer was eventually appointed to a
teaching position as head of the school's carpentry workshop.
practiced in Berlin, designing
houses and commercial spaces.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Breuer
pioneered the design of tubular steel furniture. Later in his
career he would also turn his attention to the creation of
innovative and experimental wooden furniture.
Perhaps the most widely-recognized of Breuer's early designs was
the first bent tubular steel chair, later known as the Wassily Chair
, designed in 1925 and was
inspired, in part, by the curved tubular steel handlebars on
Breuer's Adler bicycle. Despite the widespread popular belief that
the chair was designed for painter Wassily Kandinsky
, Breuer's colleague on
the Bauhaus faculty, it was not; Kandinsky admired Breuer's
finished chair design, and only then did Breuer make an additional
copy for Kandinsky's use in his home. When the chair was
re-released in the 1960s, it was designated "Wassily" by its
Italian manufacturer, who had learned that Kandinsky had been the
recipient of one of the earliest post-prototype units.
1930s, due to the rise of the Nazi party in
Germany, Breuer relocated to London.
While in London, Breuer was employed by Jack Pritchard at the
company; one of the earliest
introducers of modern design to the United Kingdom. Breuer designed
his Long Chair as well as experimenting with bent and formed
plywood. Breuer eventually ended up in the United States. He taught at Harvard's
architecture school, working with students such as Philip Johnson and Paul Rudolph who later became
well-known U.S. architects. (At one point Johnson called Breuer "a
peasant mannerist".) At the same time, Breuer worked with old
friend and Bauhaus colleague Walter
Gropius, also at Harvard, on the design of several houses in
Breuer dissolved his partnership with Gropius in May 1941 and
established his own firm in New York. The Geller House
I of 1945 is the first to employ
Breuer's concept of the 'binuclear' house, with separate wings for
the bedrooms and for the living / dining / kitchen area, separated
by an entry hall, and with the distinctive 'butterfly' roof (two
opposing roof surfaces sloping towards the middle, centrally
drained) that became part of the popular modernist style
vocabulary. A demonstration house set up in the MOMA garden in
1949 caused a new flurry of interest in the architect's work, and
an appreciation written by Peter
When the show was over, the "House in the Garden"
was dismantled and barged up the Hudson River for reassembly on the
Rockefeller property in Pocantico Hills near Sleepy Hollow.
commission for UNESCO headquarters
in Paris was a turning point for Breuer: a return to Europe, a
return to larger projects after years of only residential
commissions, and the beginning of Breuer's adoption of concrete as his primary medium.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
known as one of the leading practitioners of Brutalism
, with an increasingly curvy, sculptural,
personal idiom. Windows were often set in soft, pillowy depressions
rather than sharp, angular recesses. Many architects remarked at
his ability to make concrete appear "soft".
Between 1963 and 1964, Breuer began work on what is perhaps his
best-known project, the Whitney Museum of American Art, in New York
City. He also established a Parisian office with the name "Marcel
Breuer Architecte," from which he could better orchestrate his
European projects. Also during this time, Herbert Beckhard, Murray
Emslie, Hamilton Smith, and Robert F. Gatje became partners in
Marcel Breuer and Associates. When Murray Emslie left a year later,
he was replaced by Tician Papachristou, who had been recommended by
Breuer's former student, I. M. Pei.
sometimes incorrectly credited, or blamed, for the former Pan Am
Building (now the MetLife Building), an unpopular high-rise in New York City.
The Pan Am was actually designed by Emery
Roth & Sons
with the assistance of Walter Gropius
and Pietro Belluschi
. Breuer's name was
associated with the site because in 1969 Breuer developed a
30-story proposed skyscraper over Grand Central Terminal, called "Grand Central Tower", which Ada Louise Huxtable called "a gargantuan
tower of aggressive vulgarity," and which became a cause
celebre. Breuer's reputation was damaged, but the
legal fallout improved the climate for landmark building preservation in New York City and across the United States.
Breuer's Grand Central Tower set the foundations for his skyscraper
idea. In 1966, the Cleveland
Museum of Art needed to expand, one of its trustees was Brock
Weir of Cleveland Trust Bank.
Weir visited New York City
scouting bank headquarter designs for a new Cleveland Trust Tower.
Weir saw the proposed the Grand Central Tower idea and got Breuer
to design the Cleveland Trust Tower. In 1968, the Cleveland Trust
Tower plan was revealed. It was to have two twin towers flanking
the bank's 1908 rotunda. Construction began in 1969 and was
completed in 1971. The second tower was to begin construction in
1971 but due to plans at Cleveland Trust, the second tower was not
erected, but the tower is ready for expansion if needed.
was renamed the AT
Tower or the Ameritrust Tower after Cleveland Trust's
name change in 1980.
The Ameritrust has been vacant since the 1992 merger of Ameritrust
and Society Bank. In 2005, Cuyahoga
commissioners bought the building for $22,000,000 with
plans to use the site for a new county administration center. The
commissioners decided in 2007 to demolish the Ameritrust Tower;
however, many preservation groups strongly opposed demolition. In
October 2007, the commissioners voted to sell the tower and site to
a developer. On April 17, 2008, the K&D Group purchased the
site with plans to preserve the tower as part of a $133 million
Works (partial list)
collection of papers and works were donated to the Archives of
American Art in 1985-1999, by Constance Breuer, wife of
Private residential buildings (U.S.)
- Hagerty House, Cohasset,
- Breuer House I, Lincoln, MA. 1938â€“1939
- J. Ford House, Lincoln, MA. 1939
- Chamberlain Cottage, Wayland, MA. 1940
- Geller House, Lawrence, Long Island, NY. 1945
- Robinson House, Williamstown, MA. 1946â€“1948
- Breuer House II, New Canaan, CT. 1947â€“1948
- Marshad House, Croton-on-Hudson, NY 1949
- Cape Cod Cottages
- Breuer Cottage, Wellfleet, MA. 1945â€“1949â€“1961
- Kepes Cottage, Wellfleet, MA. 1948â€“1949
- Edgar Stillman Cottage, Wellfleet, MA. 1953â€“1954
- Wise Cottage, Wellfleet, MA. 1963
- Stillman I, Litchfield, CT. 1950
- Exhibition House in the MoMA Garden, Pocantico Hills,
Tarrytown, NY. 1948â€“1949
- Clark House, Orange, CT. 1949â€“1951
- Pack House, Scarsdale, NY. 1950â€“1951
- Dexter Ferry Cooperative House of Vassar
College, Poughkeepsie, NY. 1951
- Gagarin House 1, Litchfield, CT 1955
- Grieco House, Andover, MA. 1954â€“1955
- Starkey House, Duluth, MN, 1954â€“1955
- Hooper House II, Baltimore County, MD. 1956â€“1959
- Stillman II, Litchfield, CT. 1966
- Stillman III, Litchfield, CT. 1973â€“74
- Gagarin House II, Litchfield CT 1974
- Stillman Roman Cottage, Litchfield, CT. 1974 (Breuer Wellfleet
Cottage plans; Built by Rufus Stillman)
Public / commercial buildings
European UNESCO Headquarters, Paris,
St. John's Abbey Church, 1961
- UNESCO headquarters, Paris, France. 1953 (with
Pier Luigi Nervi and Bernard Zehrfuss).
- De Bijenkorf department store, Rotterdam, Netherlands
- various buildings at the St. John's
University in Collegeville, Minnesota:
- Saint Thomas Hall. 1959
- Saint John's Abbey Church.
- Alcuin Library. 1964
- Peter Engel Science Center. 1965
- Saints Bernard, Patrick, and Boniface Halls. 1967
- Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research. 1968
- Bush Center for the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library. 1975
- United States Embassy, The Hague, Netherlands. 1958
- various buildings at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North
- City University of New
York, Herbert H.
Lehman College, Fine Arts
- various buildings at New York
University (now Bronx
Community College) University Heights Campus, Bronx, New
- Begrisch (Lecture) Hall. 1964
- Gould Hall of Technology (now Polowczek Hall). 1964
- Colston (Residence) Hall
- Tech I & II (now Meister Hall)
- Campus Center and Garage, University of Massachusetts
Museum of American Art, New York, NY. 1966
- Armstrong Rubber/Pirelli Tire Building, Long Wharf, New Haven, CT. 1969
France. (the entire ski resort town, population 6000),
- Becton Engineering and
Applied Science Center, Yale University, New Haven, CT.
Tower, Cleveland, Ohio, 1971
- Cleveland Museum of Art North Building expansion, Cleveland,
- Bryn Mawr School Lower School
complex, Baltimore, MD. 1972
- Australian Embassy in Paris (consulting architect). 1973
- American Press Institute, Reston, Va., 1974
Central Library of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library
System in Atlanta, Georgia, 1980.
- Robert C. Weaver
Federal Building (US Department of Housing and Urban Development),
- Hubert H. Humphrey Building (US Department of Health and
Human Services), Washington, D.C.
- Litchfield High School, Litchfield, Conn.
- IBM Campus in Boca Raton, Florida.
- IBM laboratory in La Gaude, France
- St. Francis de Sales Parish - Muskegon, MI
- Grosse Pointe Public Library, Central Branch, Grosse Pointe
- Clarksburg-Harrison County Public Library, Clarksburg, WV
- Wohnbedarf Furniture Store, Zurich.
- Doldertal Houses (apartment blocks), Zurich.
- African chair, Collaboration with the Bauhaus weaver Gunta
- Sun Lounge Chair, Model No. 301
- Dressing Table & Bureau. 1922, 1925
- Slatted chairs (wood). 1922â€“24
- Wassily Chair No.B3. 1925
- Laccio Tables, small & large. 1927
- Wassily chair, folding. 1927
- Cesca Chair & Armchair.
- Thornet Typistâ€™s Desk. 1928
- Coffee Table. 1928
- Tubular steel furniture. 1928â€“29
- F 41 lounge chair on wheels. 1928â€“30
- Broom Cupboard. 1930
- Bookcase. 1931
- Armchair, Model No.301. 1932â€“34
- Aluminium chair. 1933
- Isokon chairs. 1935
- Aluminium chaise longue. 1935â€“36
- Plywood furniture (five pieces). 1936â€“37
- Franz Schulze. Philip Johnson: Life and Work.
University of Chicago Press. 1996. Page 270. ISBN 0226740587
- Fitzgerald, Jean, A Finding Aid to the Marcel Breuer Papers,
1920-1986, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian
- Ada Louise Huxtable. On the Right Track. The New York
Times. November 28, 1994.
- Smithsonian Archives of American Art. Marcel Breuer: A Centennial Celebration
Exhibition. April 6, 2002. Accessed 12 December 2007.
- VV.AA., "4 Centenarios. Luis BarragÃ¡n,
'Marcel Breuer, Arne Jacobsen, JosÃ© Luis Sert",
Valladolid, EspaÃ±a, 2002, Universidad de Valladolid, ISBN
- From the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian
- The Marcel Breuer Papers Online consist of
digitized primary source documents, including biographical
material, correspondence, business and financial records,
interviews, notes, writings, sketches, project files, exhibition
files, photographs, and printed material
- Yankee Portables by Marcel Breuer - an overview
- Marcel Breuer, Saint John's Abbey and University
- Marcel Breuer at Saint John's: The architect
used Gothic inspiration to create a Modernist campus from
the Chronicle of Higher
- Newspaper articles and archival images from the
College of Saint Benedict/Saint John's University Digital Image
works of former Breuer collaborators and associates Michele
Michahelles and Mario Jossa
- Plas-2-Point House by Marcel Breuer - an
overview with slideshow