Marcel Lajos Breuer (1902 –1981).
Marcel Breuer was a Hungarian-German architect and furniture designer. From 1920 to 1928 Breuer studied and then taught at the Bauhaus where he designed the Wassily Chair and the Cesca Chair, two of the most important chairs of the 20th century. In 1928 Breuer established an architectural practice in Berlin when he designed the Dolderthal Apartments, Zürich (1934–36) for Sigfried Geidion. During his two years of architectural practice in London, in partnership with F.R.S. Yorke, he designed for the Isokon firm laminated plywood furniture which was widely imitated. In 1937 he went to Harvard University and from 1938 to 1941 he practiced with Gropius in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Their synthesis of Bauhaus internationalism with New England regional aspects of wood-frame construction greatly influenced domestic architecture. Examples of this style of building were Breuer’s own house at Lincoln, Massachusetts (1939), and the Chamberlain cottage at Wayland, Massachusetts (1940).
Breuer moved to New York City in 1946 and thereafter attracted numerous major commissions: the Sarah Lawrence College Theatre, Bronxville, New York (1952); the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Headquarters, Paris (1953–58; with Pier Luigi Nervi and Bernard Zehrfuss); St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota (1953–61); De Bijenkorf department store, Rotterdam (1955–57); the International Business Machines (IBM) research centre, La Gaude, France (1960–62); and the headquarters for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Washington, D.C. (1963–68). Many are in a Brutalist architecture style, including the former IBM Research and Development facility.
The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, at 945 Madison Avenue (completed 1966). The Whitney collection maintained its home in the Breuer building from 1966 to 2014, before moving to a new building. It subsequently held a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art followed by the temporary quarters to the Frick Collection. The structure has exterior faces of variegated granite and exposed concrete and makes use of stark angular shapes, including cantilevered floors progressively extending to form an inverted ziggurat. The design defined the Whitney Museum's image for nearly 50 years, influencing subsequent projects such as the Cleveland Museum of Art's north wing and Atlanta's Central Library. Breuer's design also impacted the new Whitney Museum in Lower Manhattan by Renzo Piano, with both buildings featuring cantilevering floor plates and oversized elevators.
The original modernist building for the De Bijenkorf Department Store, built by Willem Dudok in 1929-1930, was heavily damaged when the German air force bombed Rotterdam during World War II. Breuer began work on the department store in 1953, with construction completed in March of 1957. The Dutch architect Abraham Elzas, oversaw construction. Breuer designed a square, five-story building with open-plan floors suitable for the display of goods. The main façade, which faced Coolsingel, was clad in a hexagonal pattern of travertine marble, a reference to the name of the department store which translates as beehive. The other elevations featured rectangular marble panels. Breuer incorporated display windows at ground level and three strips of windows above. Narrow slits in the marble provided additional illumination inside the store and created a pleasing pattern on the exterior, especially at night.
© Alan John Ainsworth Photography