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.