About: Marcel Breuer

Marcel Breuer: Architect of Central

Born in 1902 in Pecs, Hungary, Marcel Breuer, is remembered as one of the most influential architects and designers of the 20th Century. Early in life he developed an interest in art, which led him to Weimar, Germany where he studied and taught at the famed Bauhaus school. Once there he participated first as a student from 1920 til his graduation in 1924. Thereafter, he became a faculty member or “Bauhaus Master” from 1924 to 1928; by which time the school had relocated from Weimar to Dessau.

From the outset, Breuer had a clear understanding of the “form follows function” principle. To this, he embraced the concept of unit construction, and in 1925, with his innovative use of raw materials, Breuer was credited with being the first to use tubular steel in furniture; a now ubiquitous, modernist technique applied around the world. As well, Breuer was also one of the pioneers of minimalism.

In Europe, from 1928 to 1937, Breuer enjoyed a flourishing architectural practice. However, because of the outbreak of The Second World War, he made a decision to relocate in America. It was during this time when Harvard University, at the urging of Walter Gropius, offered him an Associate Professorship at its School of Design. Simultaneously, many of his other colleagues were or had already migrated to the U.S. including  Josef and Annie Albers, and Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe.  At Harvard, Breuer  taught until 1946. And later, in 1970, he received the only Honorary Doctorate in Architecture ever awarded by that school.

Throughout his illustrious career, Marcel Breuer was commissioned for numerous, monumental civic structures, with some of the more notable being The UNESCO World Headquarters (Paris), The Whitney Museum of American Art (NYC), The University of Massachusetts Campus Center in Amherst, the headquarters of The Departments of HUD and HEW in Washington D.C., St. John’s Abbey (Minnesota) and The Atlanta-Fulton Central Branch Public Library (Atlanta). In addition to his civic commissions, Breuer also received many residential commissions, including The Wolfson House, Breuer House and The Frank House, which he created in collaboration with Walter Gropius.

A major Exhibition of Breuer’s work was shown at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in November 1972, and at Paris’ Louvre Museum in the summer of 1974. More recently, in 2002 Dr. Isabelle Hyman published here authorative monograph on Breuer entitled “Marcel Breuer Architect: The Career and the Buildings” and in that same year  The Smithsonian Institution created an online exhibition entitled Marcel Breuer: A Centennial Celebration

Marcel Breuer 1902-1981

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Sources:
AFPL Central Branch – Special Collections
Archives @ The Smithsonian Institution
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