Marcel Breuer

Marcel Breuer
Marcel Lajos Breuer
Born May 20, 1902(1902-05-20)
Pécs, Hungary
Died July 1, 1981(1981-07-01) (aged 79)
New York City, USA
Nationality Hungarian
Buildings The Geller House I, UNESCO headquarters, Ameritrust Tower Breuer's only skyscraper project
Design Wassily Chair

Marcel Lajos Breuer (22 May 1902 Pécs, Hungary – 1 July 1981 New York City), was a Hungarian-born modernist, architect and furniture designer of Jewish descent. One of the masters of Modernism, Breuer (German pronunciation: [brɔʏɐ]) displayed interest in modular construction and simple forms.


Life and work

Known to his friends and associates as Lajkó, 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. He later 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.

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. Between 1935 and 1937 he worked in practice with the English Modernist F. R. S. Yorke with whom he designed a number of houses. Breuer eventually ended up in the United States. He taught at Harvard's architecture school, working with students such as Philip Johnson, Paul Rudolph and I.M.Pei who later became well-known U.S. architects. (At one point Johnson called Breuer "a peasant mannerist".[1]) 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 and elsewhere. One of the most intact examples of Breuer's furniture and interior design work during this period is the Alan I W Frank House in Pittsburgh, designed with Gropius as a Total Work of Art.

University of Massachusetts campus center (right), Amherst, 1965-1969

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 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.

The 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.[2]

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 55-story proposed skyscraper over Grand Central Terminal, called "Grand Central Tower", which Ada Louise Huxtable called "a gargantuan tower of aggressive vulgarity,"[3] 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. The Tower 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 County 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 hotel/condo complex.

Works (partial list)

Breuer donated many of his professional papers and drawings to the Special Collections Research Center at the Syracuse University library beginning in the late 1960s. The remainder of his papers, including most of his personal correspondence, were donated to the Archives of American Art in 1985-1999, by Constance Breuer, wife of Breuer.

Private residential buildings (U.S.)

  • Hagerty House, Cohasset, Massachusetts, 1937–1938
  • Breuer House I, Lincoln, Massachusetts, 1938–1939
  • J. Ford House, Lincoln, Massachusetts, 1939
  • Chamberlain Cottage, Wayland, Massachusetts, 1940
  • Geller House, Lawrence, Long Island, New York, 1945
  • Tompkins House. Hewlett Harbor, New York, 1945
  • Robinson House, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1946–1948
  • Breuer House II, New Canaan, Connecticut, 1947–1948
  • Robinson House. Williamstown, Massachusetts, 1947
  • Kniffin House, New Canaan, Connecticut, 1949 (w/ Eliot Noyes)(destroyed)
  • Cape Cod Cottages 1945-1963
    • Breuer Cottage, Wellfleet, Massachusetts, 1945–1949–1961
    • Kepes Cottage, Wellfleet, Massachusetts, 1948–1949
    • Edgar Stillman Cottage, Wellfleet, Massachusetts, 1953–1954
    • Wise Cottage, Wellfleet, Massachusetts, 1963
  • Clark House. Orange, Connecticut, 1949
  • Marshad House, Croton-on-Hudson, New York, 1949
  • Wolfson House. Pleasant Valley, New York, 1949
  • Stillman House I, Litchfield, Connecticut, 1950
  • Exhibition House in the MoMA Garden, Kykuit, Pocantico Hills, Tarrytown, New York, 1948–1949
  • Pack House, Scarsdale, New York, 1950–1951
  • Breuer House III. New Canaan, Connecticut, 1951
  • Caesar Cottage. Lakeville, Connecticut, 1952
  • Gagarin House 1, Litchfield, Connecticut, 1955
  • Grieco House, Andover, Massachusetts, 1954–1955
  • Starkey House, Duluth, Minnesota, 1954–1955
  • Hooper House II, Baltimore County, Maryland. 1956–1959
  • Laaff House. Andover, Massachusetts, 1957 (with H. Beckhard)
  • Seymour Krieger House, Bethesda, Maryland, 1958
  • Stachelin House. Feldmeilen, Switzerland, 1958 (with H. Beckhard)
  • Hanson House. Huntington, Long Island, New York, 1959
  • Stillman II, Litchfield, Connecticut, 1966
  • Soriano House. Greenwhich, Connecticut, 1969 (with T. Papachristou)
  • Stillman III, Litchfield, Connecticut, 1973–74
  • Gagarin House II, Litchfield CT, 1974
  • Stillman Roman Cottage, Litchfield, Connecticut, 1974 (Breuer Wellfleet Cottage plans; Built by Rufus Stillman)

Public / commercial buildings

European UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, 1953
St. John's Abbey Church at the campus of Saint John's University, 1961
Pirelli Tire Building, 1969
Atlanta central library, 1980
  • Dexter Ferry Cooperative House of Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York. 1951
  • UNESCO 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 1959-1975:[5]
    • Saint Thomas Hall. 1959
    • Saint John's Abbey Church. 1961[6]
    • 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
  • 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, originally Silver Hall, 1957–61
    • Tech I & II (now Meister Hall)
  • Campus Center and Garage, University of Massachusetts Amherst. 1965/69
  • The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. 1966
  • Armstrong Rubber/Pirelli Tire Building, Long Wharf, New Haven, Connecticut. 1969
  • Flaine, France. (the entire ski resort town, population 6000), completed 1969
  • Becton Engineering and Applied Science Center, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. 1970
  • AT Tower, Cleveland, Ohio, 1971
  • Cleveland Museum of Art North Building expansion, Cleveland, Ohio, 1971
  • Bryn Mawr School Lower School complex, Baltimore, Maryland. 1972
  • Australian Embassy in Paris (consulting architect). 1973
  • Boca Corporate Center & Campus (formerly the IBM Complex, Blue Lake, and T-REX Corporate Center), University Park, Florida (later annexed by Boca Raton), 1968–1974
  • American Press Institute, Reston, Virginia, 1974
  • IBM Research Center, La Gaude, France, 1961–1979
  • The Central Library of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System in Atlanta, Georgia, 1980.
  • Broward County Main Library. Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. 1984.
  • Robert C. Weaver Federal Building (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development headquarters), Washington, D.C.
  • Hubert H. Humphrey Building (US Department of Health and Human Services), Washington, D.C.
  • Litchfield High School, Litchfield, Conn.
  • St. Francis de Sales Parish - Muskegon, Michigan [1]
  • Grosse Pointe Public Library, Central Branch, Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan
  • Clarksburg-Harrison County Public Library, Clarksburg, West Virginia
  • Wohnbedarf Furniture Store, Zurich.
  • Doldertal Houses (apartment blocks), Zurich.


  • African 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
  • Bookcase. 1931
  • Armchair, Model No.301. 1932–34
  • Aluminium chair. 1933
  • Isokon furniture 1935-36
    • Nesting tables. 1936
    • Dining Table. 1936
    • Stacking Chairs. 1936
    • Long Chair. 1935-36
  • Aluminium chaise longue. 1935–36
  • Plywood furniture (five pieces). 1936–37

See also

  • Cape Cod Modern House Trust
  • Category:Marcel Breuer buildings


  1. ^ Franz Schulze. Philip Johnson: Life and Work. University of Chicago Press. 1996. Page 270. ISBN 0226740587
  2. ^ Fitzgerald, Jean, A Finding Aid to the Marcel Breuer Papers, 1920-1986, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
  3. ^ Ada Louise Huxtable. On the Right Track. The New York Times. November 28, 1994.
  4. ^ Smithsonian Archives of American Art. Marcel Breuer: A Centennial Celebration Exhibition. April 6, 2002. Accessed 12 December 2007.
  5. ^ Nancy A. Miller, "The Breuer Zone: At St. John’s University in Collegeville, campus planners refer to the clusters of buildings designed by modern master Marcel Breuer as “Breuer zones.” Architects, critics, and scholars around the world call them hallowed architectural ground", Architecture MN, January February 2008 (Vol. 34, No. 01. Reprinted in The Minnesota Preservationist: Published by the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota “to preserve, protect, and promote Minnesota’s historic resources”, Volume 13, Number 2, March - April 2010, p.7-9.
  6. ^ Nancy A. Miller, "[The Breuer Zone: At St. John’s University in Collegeville, campus planners refer to the clusters of buildings designed by modern master Marcel Breuer as “Breuer zones.” Architects, critics, and scholars around the world call them hallowed architectural ground]", Architecture MN, January February 2008 (Vol. 34, No. 01. Reprinted in The Minnesota Preservationist: Published by the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota “to preserve, protect, and promote Minnesota’s historic resources”, Volume 13, Number 2, March - April 2010, p.7-9.
  • VV.AA., "4 Centenarios. Luis Barragán, Marcel Breuer, Arne Jacobsen, José Luis Sert", Valladolid, España, 2002, Universidad de Valladolid, ISBN 84-8448-199-9

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Marcel Breuer — (1957) Marcel Lajos („Lajkó“) Breuer (* 21. Mai 1902 in Pécs (deutsch: Fünfkirchen), Ungarn; † 1. Juli 1981 in New York City) war ein deutsch amerikanischer Architekt und Designer ungarisch jüdischer Herkunft. Nach einer Tischlerlehre am Bauhaus… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Marcel Breuer — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Breuer (homonymie). Marcel Lajos Breuer (21 mai 1902, Pécs en Hongrie – 1er juillet 1981 (à 79 ans), New York aux États Unis[1 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Marcel Lajos Breuer — Nacimiento …   Wikipedia Español

  • Marcel Lajos Breuer — Marcel Breuer Marcel Breuer. Marcel Breuer (21 mai 1902, Pécs en Hongrie – 1er juillet 1981, New York aux États Unis), était architecte et designer de mobilier qui fut un moderniste influant. L’un des pères du modernisme, B …   Wikipédia en Français

  • BREUER, MARCEL — (1902–1981), architecture and furniture designer. Breuer was born in Pécs, a city in southwest Hungary. In 1920, after high school, he won a scholarship to the Vienna Academy of Fine Art. Disliking the Academy, he went to work for an architect… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Breuer — ist ein Familienname. Herkunft und Bedeutung Der Name gehört zu dem Bereich der Berufsnamen und bezeichnet den Brauer und Mälzer. Bekannte Namensträger Carolyn Breuer (* 1969), deutsche Sopran und Altsaxophonistin Christian Breuer… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Marcel Michaud — (1898 1958), écrivain et directeur de galerie d avant garde à Lyon, fut de 1936 à 1939 l animateur du groupe « Témoignage » qui réunit écrivains, musiciens, peintres (notamment Jean Bertholle et Jean Le Moal) et sculpteurs (Étienne Martin et… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Marcel — Marcel, Gabriel * * * (as used in expressions) Aymé, Marcel Breuer, Marcel (Lajos) Carné, Marcel Dassault, Marcel Marcel Bloch Duchamp, Marcel Marceau, Marcel Marcel, Gabriel (Honoré) …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • BREUER, Marcel — (1902 1981)    Born in Hungary, Marcel Breuer first trained at the famous Bauhaus School of Design in Germany and worked with the German modernist architect Walter Gropius. Known as one of the founders of modernism in both architecture and… …   Historical Dictionary of Architecture

  • Breuer, Marcel — (1902 1981)    furniture designer; best known for his Breuer Chair. A native of Pecs, Hungary, he came to Weimar in 1920 to study design at the Bauhaus.* When the school moved to Dessau in 1925, he went along as the master in charge of the… …   Historical dictionary of Weimar Republik