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Name Marcel Lajos Breuer
Birth date May 21, 1902(1902-05-21)
Birth place Pécs, Hungary
Date of death July 1, 1981 (aged 79)
Place of death New York City, USA
Significant buildings The Geller House I, UNESCO headquarters, Ameritrust Tower Breuer's only skyscraper project
Significant projects Wassily Chair
Marcel Lajos Breuer (21 May 1902 Pécs, Hungary – 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 forms.
Life and work
Known as Lajkó, Breuer studied and taught at the Bauhaus in the 1920s, stressing the combination of art and technology, and eventually became the head of the school's cabinet-making shop. He later practiced in Berlin, designing houses and commercial spaces, as well as a number of tubular metal furniture pieces, replicas of which are still in production today.
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.
In the 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 Isokon 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 the Boston area.
University of Massachusetts campus center (right), Amherst, 1965-1969Breuer 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 Blake. 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.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New YorkThe 1953 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. He became 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.
Breuer is 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 became a cause celebre. Breuer's reputation was damaged, but the legal fall out 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. The Tower was renamed the AT Tower or the Ameritrust Tower after Cleveland Trust's name change in 1980.
After the 1992 merger Ameritrust and Society Banks, the Ameritrust has been vacant. In 2005, Cuyahoga County commissioners bought the building for $22,000,000 and were planning to use the site for a new county administration center. The commissioners decided in 2007 to demolish the Ameritrust Tower and many preservation groups opposed it downright. 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 and plan a $133-million project. The group will preserve the tower as a hotel/condo complex.
Works (partial list)
Private residential buildings (U.S.)
Hagerty House, Cohasset, MA. 1937-1938
Breuer House I, Lincoln, MA. 1938-1939
J. Ford House, Lincoln, MA. 1939
Chamberlain Cottage, Wayland, MA. 1940
Geller House, Lawrence, Long Island, NY. 1945
Robinson House, Williamstown, MA. 1946-1948
Breuer House II, New Canaan, CT. 1947-1948
Marshad House, Croton-on-Hudson, NY 1949
Cape Cod Cottages
Breuer Cottage, Wellfleet, MA. 1945-1949-1961
Kepes Cottage, Wellfleet, MA. 1948-1949
Edgar Stillman Cottage, Wellfleet, MA. 1953-1954
Wise Cottage, Wellfleet, MA. 1963
Stillman I, Litchfield, CT. 1950
Exhibition House in the MoMA Garden, Pocantico Hills, Tarrytown, NY. 1948-1949
Clark House, Orange, CT. 1949-1951
Pack House, Scarsdale, NY. 1950-1951
Dexter Ferry Cooperative House of Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY. 1951
Gagarin House 1, Litchfield, CT 1955
Grieco House, Andover, MA. 1954-1955
Starkey House, Duluth, MN, 1954-1955
Hooper House II, Baltimore County, MD. 1956-1959
Stillman II, Litchfield, CT. 1966
Stillman III, Litchfield, CT. 1973-74
Gagarin House II, Litchfield CT 1974
Stillman Roman Cottage, Litchfield, CT. 1974 (Breuer Wellfleet Cottage plans; Built by Rufus Stillman)
Public / commercial buildings
Gane Pavilion, Bristol, 1936
Pennsylvania Pavilion, 1939 New York World's Fair, 1939
Aluminum City Terrace housing project, New Kensington, Pennsylvania. 1942-1944
Ariston Club, Mar del Plata, Argentina with Eduardo Catalano, and Francisco Coire. 1948.
European UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, 1953
St. John's Abbey Church, 1961UNESCO headquarters, Paris, France. 1953 (with Pier Luigi Nervi and Bernard Zehrfuss).
De Bijenkorf department store, Rotterdam, Netherlands 1955-1957.
various buildings at the St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota:
Saint Thomas Hall. 1959
Saint John's Abbey Church. 1961
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 Dakota
City University of New York, Herbert H. Lehman College, Fine Arts Building
various buildings at New York University (now Bronx Community College) University Heights Campus, Bronx, New York:
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 Amherst. 1965/69
The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY. 1966
Armstrong Rubber/Pirelli Tire Building, Long Wharf, New Haven, CT. 1969
Flaine, France. (the entire ski resort town, population 6000), completed 1969
Becton Engineering and Applied Science Center, Yale University, New Haven, CT. 1970
AT Tower, Cleveland, Ohio, 1971
Cleveland Museum of Art North Building expansion, Cleveland, Ohio, 1971
Bryn Mawr School Lower School complex, Baltimore, MD. 1972
Australian Embassy in Paris (consulting architect). 1973
American Press Institute, Reston, Va., 1974
Atlanta-Fulton Central Branch Library, Atlanta, GA, 1980
Robert C. Weaver Federal Building (US Department of Housing and Urban Development), Washington, D.C.
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 Farms, MI
Clarksburg-Harrison County Public Library, Clarksburg, WV
Wohnbedarf Furniture Store, Zurich.
Doldertal Houses (apartment blocks), Zurich.
Wassily ChairAfrican chair, Collaboration with the Bauhaus weaver Gunta Stölzl
Sun Lounge Chair, Model No. 301
Dressing Table & Bureau. 1922, 1925
Slatted chairs (wood). 1922–24
Wassily Chair No.B3. 1925
Laccio Tables, small & large. 1927
Wassily chair, folding. 1927
Cesca Chair & Armchair. 1928
Thornet Typist's Desk. 1928
Coffee Table. 1928
Tubular steel furniture. 1928–29
F 41 lounge chair on wheels. 1928–30
Broom Cupboard. 1930
Armchair, Model No.301. 1932–34
Aluminium chair. 1933
Isokon chairs. 1935
Aluminium chaise longue. 1935–36
Plywood furniture (five pieces). 1936–37
^ 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 Institution.
^ 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 Barragán, Marcel Breuer, Arne Jacobsen, José Luis Sert", Valladolid, España, 2002, Universidad de Valladolid, ISBN: 84-8448-199-9
From the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution:
The Marcel Breuer Papers Online consist of digitized primary source documents, inlcuding biographical material, correspondence, business and financial records, interviews, notes, writings, sketches, project files, exhibition files, photographs, and printed material
A Finding Aid to the Marcel Breuer Papers, by archivist Jean Fitzgerald, contains an excellent and extensive biography and chronology based on the primary source collection
Marcel Breuer: A Centennial Celebration is the online version of a 2002 exhibition.
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 Education
Newspaper articles and archival images from the College of Saint Benedict/Saint John's University Digital Image Library "Vivarium"
Current works of former Breuer collaborators and associates Michele Michahelles and Mario Jossa
Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Marcel Breuer
Retrieved from "/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcel_Breuer"
Categories: Modernist architects | Bauhaus | American architects | Hungarian architects | American furniture designers | Hungarian furniture designers | Harvard University faculty | Jewish architects | Hungarian-American Jews | 1902 births | 1981 deaths