Breuer, Marcel

views updated


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 and then applied to the Bauhaus, a school of applied design in Weimar, Germany. At the Bauhaus, he joined the newly formed furniture workshop. By 1923 he qualified as a journeyman. He became a protégé of Walter Gropius, director of the school. Even so, Breuer became impatient and left for Paris in 1924 to work for an architect. Again disappointed with his career, when Gropius invited him back to the Bauhaus to run the furniture workshop, he accepted. In 1926, Breuer designed his tubular steel chair. Unusually light and easy to assemble from ready-made steel tubes, the result of his years of experiment, the chair became famous. It was later renamed the "Wassily" after Wassily Kandinsky. Breuer taught at the Bauhaus in Dessau until 1928 when he followed Gropius to Berlin, where he set up as an architect but was barred from practice because of lack of experience. After working in Budapest and Switzerland he joined Gropius in London and then in 1937 followed him to the United States, where they both became professors at Harvard University. With much enthusiasm, Breuer taught the principles of the International Style (form follows function) to students such as Philip Johnson and Paul Rudolf, who later became important architects. Breuer and Gropius each built their own homes: two story boxlike structures of glass, wood, and stone rubble. Commissions followed. In 1946 Breuer left Harvard to open an architectural office in New York in partnership with industrial designer Eliot Noyes. The Geller House on Long Island, completed in 1946, was hailed as the "house of the future." This house of glass, wood, and stone became the paradigm for enlightened house design in mid-century with its careful attention to each function of the dwelling. His favorite house plan was an h-plan or a t-plan, designs he used for the many homes he built on the East Coast of the U.S. In 1949 Breuer built and furnished a model home for the Museum of Modern Art and in 1953 he won, together with Pier Luigi Nervi, the competition to design the headquarters of unesco in Paris. Also in 1953, Breuer designed the Bijenkorff Department store in Rotterdam. For his large buildings, Breuer shifted to massive concrete block shapes. His major legacy is the 1963 Whitney Museum of Art in New York City.


Hyman, Marcel Breuer:Architect (2001); B. Gatje, Marcel Breuer (2000). website:

[Betty R. Rubenstein (2nd ed.)]

About this article

Breuer, Marcel

Updated About content Print Article