Marcel Breuer

Born Lajos Breuer in 1902 in Pecs, Hungary, Marcel Breuer was the eldest member of the group that became known as the "Harvard Five." In 1920, he set off for Vienna to study art but disliked the atmosphere of the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. His next move was to the Bauhaus School in Weimer, Germany, where he enrolled as a student in 1921. The Bauhaus School, founded by Walter Gropius (1883-1969), was known for combining the teaching of arts with technology.

After graduating from the Bauhaus with a Masters of Architecture degree in 1924, Breuer moved to Paris to pursue architectural studies. Gropius invited Breuer back to the Bauhaus in 1925 to work as the Master of the Carpentry Shop, where he made his first great impressions on the world of design with his modular furniture. His most famous furniture design was the iconic tubular steel chair inspired by bicycle handlebars. Breuer stayed in Germany until 1935, continuing his work in furniture, interior design, and architecture.

He immigrated to the United States in 1937 after Walter Gropius invited him to teach architecture at the newly established Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Breuer's students included I.M. Pei (1917- ), Philip Johnson (1906-2005), and Paul Rudolph (1918-1977). Through his roles as teacher and Gropius's business partner, Breuer became a highly influential member of the Modern movement. He was instrumental in revolutionizing architectural education in the United States by promoting and implementing Bauhaus concepts.

Breuer moved to New York City in 1946 and was persuaded by former student Eliot Noyes (1910-1977) to consider building a home in New Canaan, Connecticut. Breuer purchased property on Sunset Hill Road and completed his first house in New Canaan in 1947. Unlike many of the other New Canaan Modern architects, he kept his primary residence in New York City and used his New Canaan house as a weekend and vacation retreat. He later built a second house, Breuer House 2, for his family in New Canaan. Because of poor health, Breuer sold his house in New Canaan in 1972 and moved permanently back to Manhattan. Marcel Breuer was one of the most influential teachers and architects of the Modern movement in America. His most renowned works include St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota (1953), the UNESCO World Headquarters in Paris (1955-58, in conjunction with Pier Luigi Nervi and Bernard Zehrfuss), the IBM Research Center in La Gaude, France (1960-62), the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City (1964-66), and the Armstrong Rubber Company Headquarters in West Haven, Connecticut (1968-70). The American Institute of Architects awarded him the Gold Medal in 1968 and l'Acad?mie d'Architecture in France awarded him the Grande M?daille d'Or in 1976. Breuer was also honored with the first one-man show for a living American architect at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1972-73, and a one-man exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1981. Breuer died in New York City in 1981.


National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2009.