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Marcel Breuer 1902 – 1981

"Architecture is the art of space" Marcel Breuer

Marcel Brewer, born in 1902 in Pécs in southwestern Hungary was known as a champion of the International style of architecture and eventually chose brutalism as his choice of medium and architectural expression.

Leaving his home town as a teenager, he was driven by a desire to learn art and design at the Bauhaus where he was noticed by Walter Gropius to have particular talents and began his design career in carpentry under the tutorship and guidance of Gropius, and eventually led the design workshop.

He went on to design many iconic chair designs including the Wassily Chair in 1928 and the Cesca Chair in 1929, as being one of the most recognised examples of Bauhaus Design.

wassily chair marcel breuer
Wassily Chair - an iconic chair design of the 20th Century by Marcel Breuer
cesca chair bauhaus marcel breuer
Cesca Chair, designed by Marcel Breuer at the Bauhaus in 1928

Marcel Breuer has remained unique in his profession in that he is one of the only architects that trained at the Bauhaus.

Breuer spent two years in London in 1935 - 37 where he worked for the furniture maker Isokon, he then moved to the USA to teach architecture at Harvard University.

His relationship with Walter Gropius continued from 1938 - 41 and they both collaborated together on the design and construction of Gropius's house in completed in 1937. The building itself remained true to the Bauhaus's philosophy of combining equally the design of a building as an art form as well as a piece of architecture.

Breuer settled in New York in 1946 where he set up his own architectural practice and collaborated with various architectural partners to work on over 100 projects between 1947 and 1980.

Notable Projects

UNESCO Headquarters Paris Marcel Breuer
UNESCO Headquarters, inaugurated on 3 November 1958 in Paris

UNESCO Headquarters - 1958 Paris

Designed and constructed in collaboration with Italian Engineer and Architect Pier Luigi Nervi, the building is 7 stories high and designed as a three pointed star. Le Corbusier had originally been recommended as the principal architect, but ended up in an advisory position only.

Church at St Johns Abbey, Collegeville Minnesota USA

Baldwin Dworschak, Abbot of St Johns Abbey made a decision to break from traditional Catholic Building design and commission Marcel Breuer to build an Abbey that was a break from tradition. Built in the Brutalist Modernist style, the building itself follows the traditional religious building layout with a bell tower and worship area, but the tower is separated from the main building and almost takes on an almost avant-garde perspective.

St Johns Abbey Church, Collegeville Minnesota Marcel Breuer
Bell Tower of St Johns Abbey Church in Collegeville, Minnesota

IBM Laboratory La Gaude, France - 1962

IBM based its main headquarters in Paris, France, but due to research and expansion, the company was looking for a location outside of the city, La Gaude was chosen, so was Marcel Breuer, against Frances prominent architect Le Corbusier. The building consists of 2 Y shaped wings elevated also on Y shaped Pilotis, giving the building a contrasting brutalist and sophisticated element to it, elevating above the local topography.

The building is located on a hillside in a rural wooded area and was constructed from precast concrete and fabricated concrete panels. IBM proceeded to order two other buildings known as B2 and B3, added in the 1970s and smaller than the original main building.

Unfortunately the building is currently unoccupied and in an increasingly poor state of repair

Whitney Museum of American Art - 1966

The Museum, originally founded by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in 1954 behind the New York Museum of Modern Art, was commissioned and moved to the current site at 945 Madison Avenue and East 75th Street, and opened in 1966. Again, built in the Brutalist style, its original reception was muted, being described as sombre, heavy and brutal. But as with most brutalist buildings it has come to be recognised as a form of architecture designed to allow the art inside to be the colour of the building not the other way round.

The buildings entrance is in stepped from the sidewalk outside into the entrance under a concrete canopy to allow the visitor to acclimatise from the busy street outside to the internal art space.

In March 2o16 the building was renovated and converted into the MET Breuer. Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic it was announced in June 2020, the museum would close permanently.

Flaine Ski Resort, France - 1969

Business entrepreneur and philanthropist Eric Boissonnas commissioned Marcel Breuer to create a Ski Resort that would fit into the surrounding slopes of the alps in a non conventional way. Standard Ski Chalet design follows the rules of wooden steeped roof huts. With Brewer recently completing the UNESCO Headquarters and the Whitney Museum, Boissonnas knew he would be getting a stark and dramatic brutalist construction that Brewer was now an expert in.

Boissonnas's Vision was to work in collaboration with Breuer to create a prototype of urbanism, architecture and design for the 20th Century using the most modern building construction techniques

Congres Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne (CIAM), an organisation that was formed in 1929 with notable architects including Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius as members to promote and spread the principles of modern architecture, had the ambition in the late 1950s to allow access to the mountains to the public and to protect them from the influence of private enterprise and to attract the affluent middle classed younger generation. This vision fitted with Boissonnas and Brewers vision for Flaine's Ski Resort

Marcel Brewer continued to be a formidable influence on domestic Architecture in the USA and across the world, and was awarded the Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects at their 100th annual convention in 1968 at Portland.

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