written by:
April 14, 2014
The Bauhaus designer’s modern vision helped post-war American building see the future.
Marcel Breuer

Marcel Breuer

A passionate designer and architect, the Bauhaus-trained icon once wrote about “
The taste of space on your tongue/
The fragrance of dimensions/The juice of stone."

1 / 11
Alan I W Frank House (Pittsburgh, USA: 1940)
Alan I W Frank House (Pittsburgh, 1940)

As a symbol of modernism’s rise, you can’t really do better than the multi-level, cantilevered staircase in this elegant residence, a signature Breuer touch that would appear in many other residential projects. A collaboration between Breuer and Walter Gropius, the 12,000-square-foot home for a Pittsburgh industrialist and engineer was a synthesis of stone, rich wood paneling, and curves, furnished in custom Breuer furniture. As influential as the design and aesthetic proved to be, the home’s environmentally conscious construction—including a green roof and an energy conservation system that used water from the indoor pool to heat and cool the house—showcased just how far ahead of the game the Bauhaus duo was at the time.

Photo Credit: Joseph, Creative Commons

2 / 11
Hagerty House (Cohasset, USA: 1938)
Hagerty House (Cohasset, Massachusetts, 1938)

When this minimalist, L-shaped modern structure was first erected on the Massachusetts coastline, neighbors said it “looked like the ladies’ wing at Alcatraz,” according to the original resident, John Hagerty. Decades later, guests are still stopping by to explore this inspired Gropius/Breuer collaboration. Exposed pipes and steel staircases provide a streamlined look, while towering glass windows magnify the grandeur of the churning Atlantic Ocean below. Dwell spoke with the current owner, who said the compact-yet-open floor plan results in a “liberating” living experience.

Photo Credit: Diana, Creative Commons

3 / 11
Breuer House I (New Canaan, USA: 1948)
Breuer House I (New Canaan, Connecticut, 1948)

During the post-war period, the Harvard Five architects turned a Connecticut suburb into a Modernist testing ground, presenting stylish visions of how the era’s insatiable construction boom could look. This house was Breuer’s first entry into the “Canaan canon,” and it struck quite the chord, literally pushing the boundaries of cantilevered construction. An Architectural Record article from the time gushed that “the irresistible appeal of the cantilever is here developed to the ultimate degree. What Breuer has done, in effect, is to build a small basement story above ground, and then balance a full-size one-story house nearly atop it.” A difficult balancing act, to be sure, but the horizontal structure would show Breuer leaning out and pushing the boundaries. He’d later gain notoriety for a second New Canaan house, and a model he built for display in the gardens next to the Museum of Modern Art was one of the institution’s most popular and influential architectural displays of the 20th century.

4 / 11
UNESCO Headquarters (Paris, France: 1951)
UNESCO Headquarters (Paris, 1951)

Le Corbusier was initially recommended to design this structure, but budget issues from his previous UN project in New York led to the appointment of Breuer, Bernard Zehrfuss of France, and Pier Luigi Nervi of Italy. Breuer left his stamp on the facade of the main building, the Y-shaped “three-pointed star,” creating soaring concrete shapes that would be a signature of his public works for decades to come.

Photo Credit: Matthias Ripp, Creative Commons

5 / 11
Church at St. John’s Abbey ( Collegeville, USA: 1961)
Church at St. John’s Abbey (Collegeville, Minnesota, 1961)

In 1950, Abbot Baldwin Dworschak solicited forward-thinking designs from leading architects to remake his Minnesota church and create a monument to the service of God. Breuer answered the call. There's a certain majesty to the bell tower greeting the faithful, a massive panel supported by a curvaceous stand. That Breuer then follows it up with the church itself, with a massive wall of hexagonal stained glass and concrete tresses, makes this a classic.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

6 / 11
IBM Laboratory (La Gaude, France: 1962)
IBM Laboratory (La Gaude, France, 1962)

Breuer supposedly ranked this structure of prefabricated concrete panels among his favorites. Its Brutalist facade and bold geometry, suspended above the countryside near Nice, speak to the rationality and cold calculation of his client, the computing giant.

7 / 11
Ariston Hotel (Mar del Plata, Argentina: 1948)
Ariston Hotel (Mar del Plata, Argentina, 1948)

It’s fitting that Breuer’s project at an Argentinian resort town would boast the same kind of playful curves one might spy at the beach. He even used volcanic tiles to slim down this clover-shaped hotel. Sadly, this building has fallen into neglect, though a group is working to preserve and restore the structure.

Photo Credit: arqpulti, creative commons

8 / 11
Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, USA: 1966)
<Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, 1966)

A muscular concrete stack amidst the stately homes of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, the Whitney imposes itself on the neighborhood, an architectural statement as challenging as the work housed inside. The granite exterior, ascending edges and upside-down windows, initially seen as pushy and gauche, are now recognized as inspired and grandiose.

Photo Credit: Jules Antonio, Creative Commons

9 / 11
Atlanta Central Library (Atlanta, USA: 1980)
Atlanta Central Library (Atlanta, 1980)

The last structure that Breuer designed (he was too ill to attend the dedication ceremony), the Atlanta Central Library was an evolution of the style and shapes used for the Whitney, a sculptural structure of cubes right angles. The airy shapes, combined with the heavy massing of concrete, led Barry Bergdoll, the chief curator of architecture at the Museum of Modern Art, to refer to this type of construction as “the invention of heavy lightness.”

Photo Credit: Alexsandr Zykov, Creative Commons

10 / 11
Flaine Ski Resort (Haute-Savoie, France: 1969)
Flaine Ski Resort (Haute-Savoie, France, 1969)

One of the most prestigious architects to tackle the challenge of apres-ski, Breuer devised a scheme for Flaine that integrated it as much as possible into the surrounding French Alps. His design for the hotel and village played with snow and sun, supposedly including diamond-shaped facades that reflected the light.

Photo Credit: Patrick Nouhailer, Creative Commons

11 / 11
Marcel Breuer

Marcel Breuer

A passionate designer and architect, the Bauhaus-trained icon once wrote about “
The taste of space on your tongue/
The fragrance of dimensions/The juice of stone."

When designer and architect Marcel Breuer left Europe in the ‘30s to teach architecture at Harvard and start his own practice, it served as a catalyst for the spread of Modernist design, a bend in the road as fortuitous and influential as the curved steel joints in his famous tubular steel furniture. In the coming decades, his work with students and future luminaries such as Philip Johnson and Paul Randolph, as well as his own series of private residences and monumental public commissions, helped many appreciate and understand a new way of designing.

Educated at the Bauhaus, where he created a series of influential new furniture pieces and became a protege of Walter Gropius, Breuer brought an impressive sense of material to bear on his projects. Like the steel “Wassily Chair,” a radical take on the club chair that still looks futuristic nearly a century later, his buildings reflected the circumstances and elements, from chic residential commissions in elegant wood and stone, to imposing, sculptural concrete churches and museums that never lacked gravitas. A string of impressive structures -- from the Whitney Museum in Manhattan to a demo house in the garden near MOMA that ignited interest in his designs -- has left his influence undeniable. He’s credited with spearheading the International style, but when you read the way he articulated the joy and pleasure of his work (“
The taste of space on your tongue/
The fragrance of dimensions/The juice of stone"), “universal” may be a better way to describe his approach.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

Modern small sustainable weekend home with flat roof
Two linked 1,000-square-foot pavilions are greater than a sum of their parts.
May 28, 2016
inside out los angeles home barbara bestor hollywood outdoor facade charcoal paint pool
Architect Barbara Bestor transforms a Hollywood Hills home by opening up its interior to the site’s dramatic backyard topography.
May 28, 2016
right of laneway vancouver garden sliding glass western window systems door outdoor
A Vancouver garden blossoms alongside fresh development.
May 28, 2016
20160229 dgd highhouse 1777 1024x683
Two toddlers, a pup, and their parents fit onto a 16.5-foot-wide plot in an inner suburb of Melbourne.
May 27, 2016
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
May 27, 2016
capitol gains seattle multifamily living dining room wassily chair chaise le corbusier cb2
Two Seattle architects design and build a dynamic multifamily structure on a formerly vacant lot.
May 27, 2016
modern beach house thatch roof living dining bar cart
By eliminating walls and incorporating a series of interior gardens, architect José Roberto Paredes creates an eclectic and inspired El Salvador beach house.
May 27, 2016
A two-story Eichler in San Francisco gets a freshening up.
May 27, 2016
Bathyard renovation in Madrid, Spain
In Madrid, Spain, Husos Architects renovate a turn-of-the-20th-century apartment for a client with dual passions: her houseplants and a nice, long bath.
May 26, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
May 26, 2016
starting over sturgeon bay facade tongue and groove new growth cypress  0
After a devastating fire, architect David Salmela designs a house to replace a beloved lakeside retreat in Wisconsin.
May 26, 2016
Modern home with brick base and cedar rain screen on top level
An architect reimagines an outdated brick garage by designing a graceful new family home atop its foundation.
May 26, 2016
sardenya lr 7
A renovation brings light and order to a Spanish flat, maintaining its standout ceilings.
May 25, 2016
pow 5 25 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
May 25, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent thom fougere winnipeg canada cthom fougere studio thom fougere saddle chair 2
Designer Thom Fougere plays with scale and typology to create playful furniture.
May 25, 2016
prs my16 0067 v001 1
In the worlds of architecture and design, we’re always looking for the best ways of supporting sustainable building practices. This awareness doesn’t have to stop at our driveways but rather, it can extend to the cars we choose to take us to the places we go each day. With Toyota’s 2016 Prius, the daily task of getting from point A to point B can now be experienced with a new level of efficiency, safety, and style.
May 25, 2016
mountfordarchitects western australia
On a narrow site in Western Australia, Mountford Architects makes the most of a tight spot—with an eye to the future.
May 25, 2016
San Francisco living room with Wassily chairs
Materials and furniture transformed the layout of this San Francisco house, without the need for dramatic structural intervention.
May 24, 2016
shiver me timbers tallow wood kitchen
A pair of married architects put their exacting taste to work on their own family escape in the Australian bush.
May 24, 2016
in the balance small space massachusetts cantilevered cabin glass facade
When nature laid down a boulder of a design challenge in the Massachusetts mountains, an architect’s solution elevated the project to new heights.
May 24, 2016
Wooden Walkways
A home in Ontario, Canada, demonstrates how factory-built housing can be as site sensitive as traditional construction.
May 24, 2016
15 icff 5
From Corian furniture to immersive installations, here are some of our favorite designs we saw at the 2016 shows.
May 24, 2016
A home and community celebrate natural remove in unison.
May 24, 2016
With our annual issue devoted to the outdoors on newsstands, we did a lap of Instagram for some extra inspiration.
May 23, 2016
forest for the trees english prefab mobile home facade chesnut cladding
On the edge of a historic park in an English shire, a prefabricated home sets a new design standard.
May 23, 2016
tread lightly australia
A family home on Australia’s Mornington Peninsula is built to blend in with its lakeside setting.
May 23, 2016
jardins party dining room hay chairs local wood floor
A pair of architects help a client carve out an oasis of calm amid São Paulo’s bustle.
May 23, 2016
hwm6zf 1
No matter where you're located or what time of the year it is, having a fireplace in your home is a treasure that’s continuously sought after. Besides the obvious benefits of keeping a fire going through the cold winter months, it can also be a cherished asset that provides an extra level of year-round comfort—not to mention how it can help define the layout of a space by acting as a sculptural element.
May 23, 2016
An office Crosby Studios designed for NGRS in Moscow
Crosby Studios just cares about the essentials.
May 22, 2016
cold sweat seattle floating sauna gocstudio
A cadre of designers let off steam after hours by building and sailing a seaworthy sauna.
May 22, 2016