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Remembering Marcel Breuer and His Unique Brand of Modern

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Born 111 years ago yesterday, the late architect and furniture designer Marcel Breuer is a controversial figure in the history of modernism, credited by some with popularizing the maligned brutalist style, while also being responsible for some of the most lauded buildings and furniture of the 20th century. An apprentice of Bauhaus master Walter Gropius, the Hungarian-born Breuer emigrated to the United States in the 1940s, establishing his own practice in New York. At the time of his 1981 death, Breuer was a holder of an AIA Gold Medal and the 1968 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal in Architecture. See his seminal designs, all on a map, below.
—additional research by Alexandra Danna


· All Marcel Breuer coverage [Curbed National]

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1. Wassily Chair

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Gropiusallee 38
06846 Dessau-Roßlau, Germany

Breuer was named a prodigy after designing the now-iconic, tubular Wassily Chair in 1925, when he was just 23. The future architect was inspired by the handlebars of his bike and gave one of the early prototypes to Bauhaus faculty member Wassily Kandinsky, but had not, as is often assumed, designed it with the painter in mind.

2. Doldertal Apartment Houses

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Doldertal 19
8032 Zurich, Switzerland

Among Breuer's earliest architecture commissions were the Doldertal Apartment Houses, designed in collaboration with Alfred and Emil Roth and completed in 1936. The steel frame structures initially alarmed the neighbors, but the pair of white buildings survive to this day.

3. Breuer House I

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5 Woods End Road
Lincoln, MA 01773

In 1938, Breuer's mentor, Walter Gropius, built a white box house in the quiet Boston suburb of Lincoln, Mass. In 1939, Breuer followed suit, constructing the Breuer House I on a nearby lot. Helen Storrow, “a wealthy Boston-based supporter of modern art and architecture,” paid for the construction. Listed on the National Register in 1988, the house is still in private hands.

4. Geller House I

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A product of Breuer's "binuclear" concept, which divided the public areas of the house from sleeping quarters, the 1947 Geller House was the first of two built for Bertram and Phyllis Geller, who passed this one to their son before commissioning the Geller House II in the late 1960s.

5. UNESCO Headquarters

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7 Place de Fontenoy
75007 Paris, France

Breuer worked with a slew of other prominent architects on the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France, but the "Three"—Breuer, Bernard Zehrfuss, Pier Luigi Nervi—were chosen to design the initial phase in 1953. This project brought Breuer to worldwide prominence.

6. St. John's Abbey

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One of Breuer's most recognizable works, the St. John's Abbey was designed as part of a competition that included fellow luminaries Richard Neutra, Walter Gropius, Eero Saarinen, and Pietro Belluschi. Breuer drafted the campus master plan over a 15 year period, but the iconic belltower was completed early, in 1955.

7. IBM Research Center

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1103 Route de Saint-Laurent
06610 La Gaude, France

A most elegant Brutalist design, the sprawling IBM Research Center was completed in 1962. Thanks to strategically placed columns, one arm of the building, a heavy concrete form, seems to float above the countryside, linked to the ground by a simple staircase.

8. The Whitney Museum

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945 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10021

Today Breuer's most recognizable work, the Whitney Museum was viewed as a Brutalist intrusion into its Upper East Side environs when it was unveiled in 1966. A stepped design that allows light down into a basement court, the Whitney Museum Building will soon be turned over to the Met, when the Whitney moves to its new downtown home.

9. Grand Central Tower

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87 East 42nd Street
New York, NY 10017

Shortly after completing the Whitney, Breuer turned his attention to designing a giant steel-and-glass tower to top the existing Grand Central Station. The plans, never realized, were vehemently opposed by preservationists and led, eventually, to solidifying the power of the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

10. American Rubber Co. Headquarters

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450 Sargent Drive
New Haven, CT 06511

Breuer penned the designs for this beautiful Brutalist tower, the headquarters for Armstrong Rubber, in 1968. By 1980, Armstrong was bankrupt and Pirelli Tires acquired the company and structure. IKEA recently demolished the low-rise section to make way for a massive parking lot, but preserved the tower, which is clearly visible from Interstate 95.

11. Robert C. Weaver Federal Building

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990 L'Enfant Plaza Southwest
Washington, DC 20024

In the 1960s, Breuer committed to the Brutalist style for which he is now famous. In 1966, the architect was tapped to design a D.C. headquarters for the newly formed Department of Housing and Urban Development. The resulting structure, a concrete-fronted giant, remarkably came in under budget thanks to the ample use of pre-cast concrete.

12. Hubert H. Humphrey Federal Building

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200 Independence Avenue Southwest
Washington, DC 20201

Following his success with the Weaver building, Breuer was again selected to design a major government building, this time on an awkward site atop a highway. The result took years to complete, thanks to cracks in the concrete, a problem that continued to plague the building after its 1977 dedication.

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1. Wassily Chair

Gropiusallee 38, 06846 Dessau-Roßlau, Germany

Breuer was named a prodigy after designing the now-iconic, tubular Wassily Chair in 1925, when he was just 23. The future architect was inspired by the handlebars of his bike and gave one of the early prototypes to Bauhaus faculty member Wassily Kandinsky, but had not, as is often assumed, designed it with the painter in mind.

Gropiusallee 38
06846 Dessau-Roßlau, Germany

2. Doldertal Apartment Houses

Doldertal 19, 8032 Zurich, Switzerland

Among Breuer's earliest architecture commissions were the Doldertal Apartment Houses, designed in collaboration with Alfred and Emil Roth and completed in 1936. The steel frame structures initially alarmed the neighbors, but the pair of white buildings survive to this day.

Doldertal 19
8032 Zurich, Switzerland

3. Breuer House I

5 Woods End Road, Lincoln, MA 01773

In 1938, Breuer's mentor, Walter Gropius, built a white box house in the quiet Boston suburb of Lincoln, Mass. In 1939, Breuer followed suit, constructing the Breuer House I on a nearby lot. Helen Storrow, “a wealthy Boston-based supporter of modern art and architecture,” paid for the construction. Listed on the National Register in 1988, the house is still in private hands.

5 Woods End Road
Lincoln, MA 01773

4. Geller House I

175 Ocean Avenue, Lawrence NY.

A product of Breuer's "binuclear" concept, which divided the public areas of the house from sleeping quarters, the 1947 Geller House was the first of two built for Bertram and Phyllis Geller, who passed this one to their son before commissioning the Geller House II in the late 1960s.

5. UNESCO Headquarters

7 Place de Fontenoy, 75007 Paris, France

Breuer worked with a slew of other prominent architects on the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France, but the "Three"—Breuer, Bernard Zehrfuss, Pier Luigi Nervi—were chosen to design the initial phase in 1953. This project brought Breuer to worldwide prominence.

7 Place de Fontenoy
75007 Paris, France

6. St. John's Abbey

31802 County Road 159 Collegeville, MN 56321

One of Breuer's most recognizable works, the St. John's Abbey was designed as part of a competition that included fellow luminaries Richard Neutra, Walter Gropius, Eero Saarinen, and Pietro Belluschi. Breuer drafted the campus master plan over a 15 year period, but the iconic belltower was completed early, in 1955.

7. IBM Research Center

1103 Route de Saint-Laurent, 06610 La Gaude, France

A most elegant Brutalist design, the sprawling IBM Research Center was completed in 1962. Thanks to strategically placed columns, one arm of the building, a heavy concrete form, seems to float above the countryside, linked to the ground by a simple staircase.

1103 Route de Saint-Laurent
06610 La Gaude, France

8. The Whitney Museum

945 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10021

Today Breuer's most recognizable work, the Whitney Museum was viewed as a Brutalist intrusion into its Upper East Side environs when it was unveiled in 1966. A stepped design that allows light down into a basement court, the Whitney Museum Building will soon be turned over to the Met, when the Whitney moves to its new downtown home.

945 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10021

9. Grand Central Tower

87 East 42nd Street, New York, NY 10017

Shortly after completing the Whitney, Breuer turned his attention to designing a giant steel-and-glass tower to top the existing Grand Central Station. The plans, never realized, were vehemently opposed by preservationists and led, eventually, to solidifying the power of the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

87 East 42nd Street
New York, NY 10017

10. American Rubber Co. Headquarters

450 Sargent Drive, New Haven, CT 06511

Breuer penned the designs for this beautiful Brutalist tower, the headquarters for Armstrong Rubber, in 1968. By 1980, Armstrong was bankrupt and Pirelli Tires acquired the company and structure. IKEA recently demolished the low-rise section to make way for a massive parking lot, but preserved the tower, which is clearly visible from Interstate 95.

450 Sargent Drive
New Haven, CT 06511

11. Robert C. Weaver Federal Building

990 L'Enfant Plaza Southwest, Washington, DC 20024

In the 1960s, Breuer committed to the Brutalist style for which he is now famous. In 1966, the architect was tapped to design a D.C. headquarters for the newly formed Department of Housing and Urban Development. The resulting structure, a concrete-fronted giant, remarkably came in under budget thanks to the ample use of pre-cast concrete.

990 L'Enfant Plaza Southwest
Washington, DC 20024

12. Hubert H. Humphrey Federal Building

200 Independence Avenue Southwest, Washington, DC 20201

Following his success with the Weaver building, Breuer was again selected to design a major government building, this time on an awkward site atop a highway. The result took years to complete, thanks to cracks in the concrete, a problem that continued to plague the building after its 1977 dedication.

200 Independence Avenue Southwest
Washington, DC 20201