Marcel Breuer (1902-1981)

Hungarian-born American architect and designer Marcel Breuer was one of the most influential Modern Design figures. As a Great innovator, he eagerly tested new advances in technology and broke away from conventional forms.

Marcel Breuer sitting on Model B3 Wassily Chair, 1925-26.
Marcel Breuer sitting on Model B3 Wassily Chair photo (1925-26)

Image source: by moonoa

About His Life

Marcel Breuer was born on May 21, 1902, in Pecs, Hungary. He moved to Vienna with his family at the age of 18, where he attended the Art Academy to pursue his studies as a painter. Then, he enrolled in Bauhaus, Weimar, which was then a part of Germany. During the next four years at Bauhaus, Breuer devoted himself to the study of architecture. Walter Gropius was a primary influence and model for his project. In 1925, he moved to Dessau, where he designed the entire furniture line for Gropius buildings. In 1928, Breuer established his practice as an architect. Then, in 1933, Breuer was forced to leave Germany and moved to London. Four years later, Breuer accepted Gropius’ invitation to the United States. In 1976, Breuer decided to retire from active practice, passing away five years later, in 1981.

Marcel Breuer photo where he hands his hands up with fingers spread apart.
Marcel Breuer

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His Major Works

Breuer authored several high-profile architectural projects, such as the Ameritrust Tower (1968-1971, Ohio, USA), the Cleveland Museum of Art (Ohio, USA), the Flaine Resort (1969, Flaine, France), Josephine M. Hagerty House (1938, Massachusetts, USA), Murray D. Lincoln Campus Center (Massachusetts, USA), and the Saint John’s Abbey (1961, Collegeville, Minnesota, USA).

St. John's Abbey Church at the campus of Saint John's University, 1961- Collegeville.
St. John’s Abbey Church at the campus of Saint John’s University (1961)

Image source:’s_Abbey.jpg

Breuer’s body of work includes numerous houses as well. Notably, the Breuer House (1948, New Canaan, Connecticut, USA), the first of his New Canaan’s homes; the Seymour Krieger House (1958, Bethesda, Maryland, USA), one-story, a steel-framed building made out of an all-stretcher coursed brick; the Robert C. Weaver Federal Building (Washington, D.C., USA), a 10-story office building owned by the federal government; the World Heritage Centre (1951, Paris, France), an active UNESCO Headquarters; Waldenmark, also known as the Edward Fischer House (New York, USA), a historical house, studio, garage, and guesthouse; the Whitney Museum of American Art, known as The Whitney (1964-1966, New York, USA) and the Atlanta Public Library (1980, Atlanta, USA).

Robert C. Weaver Federal Building-built 1965–1968, Marcel Breuer. Washington, D.C.
Robert C. Weaver Federal Building (1965–1968) by Marcel Breuer in Washington, D.C.

Image source: by gnrklk

Whitney Museum of American Art, Breuer, 1964-1966, New York.
Whitney Museum of American Art (1964-1966) by Breuer

Image source: by Sergio Calleja (Life is a trip) from Barcelona, Spain

Whitney Museum of American Art: Black and white photo of a simple staircase.
Whitney Museum of American Art

Image source: by jonolist

Outside his architectural legacy, Breuer is famous for his outstanding furniture design. Further, he designed the legendary B3 Wassily club chair, the first tubular metal chair in 1925. Another iconic product were the B9 and B3 tables (1925-1926). Moreover, these two were Breuer’s first commissions for Bauhaus. Then, in 1928, he designed and built the Cesca Chair, working with the steel tubes typical of Modernist design. He intended to combine modern, rigorous design guidelines with a comfort-based approach to ensure both rest and elegance.

Wassily Chair (1925) by Marcel Breuer: A simple metal and tan-fabric chair with rectangles of fabric in stripes.
Wassily Chair (1925) by Marcel Breuer

Image source: by Tim Evanson

Bauhaus building  with Wassily Chairs by Marcel Breuer (1925/26): four red chairs sit in the middle of a simple room with large rectangular windows.
Bauhaus building with Wassily Chairs by Marcel Breuer (1925/26)

Image source: by oswaId

The Breuer Style

Breuer’s architectural style went through great evolution, with at least four recognizable phases.

  1. The white box and glass structures of the International style, which he adopted for his early houses in Europe and the USA.
  2. The punctured wooden walls, which characterized his famous house in New Canaan, with its balcony hung off a cantilever.
  3. The modular prefabricated concrete panel facades, which he used in many of his institutional buildings plus the whole town of Flaine.
  4. The stone and shaped concrete, which he used for the Whitney Museum of American Art, the St John’s Abbey, or the Atlanta Public Library.
Walter Gropius (1883-1969) by Breuer

Image source: by Spudgun67

Atlanta Public Library, Breuer, 1980, Atlanta: A large grey, simple building.
Atlanta Public Library (1980) by Breuer

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During his processes, he ensured the new industrial innovations in bending tubular steel were adopted. Additionally, such care as his typically used metal structural frames, thereby demonstrating the possibilities of modern industry applied to everyday objects.

Cesca Chair (1928) by Breuer.
Cesca Chair (1928) by Breuer

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