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Marcel Breuer

Biographies
Marcel Breuer

*  1902 Pècs/Ungarn
† 1981 New York


The Hungarian designer and architect Marcel Breuer enrolled at the Bauhaus School in Weimar in 1920, dropping out of the studies he had just begun at the Akademie der bildenden Künste in Vienna to do so. After taking preliminary courses, Marcel Breuer served an apprenticeship as a carpenter at the Bauhaus. 1925-28 Marcel Breuer was head of the Bauhaus furniture workshop. In 1927 Marcel Breuer launched his "Type B3 steel Club Chair" (later renamed "Wassily"). Bicycle handlebars are said to have inspired Breuer to use steel tubing for the chair frame. Breuer's first successful chair was followed by other furniture made of steel tubing; to make and market it, Marcel Breuer founded a joint practice, Standard Furniture, with the architect Stefan Lengyel. The "Wassily" chair was at first made by Gebrüder Thonet but later by Dino Gavina (from 1969 Knoll International). Marcel Breuer experimented with new materials to make his type furniture. Marcel Breuer was so fascinated by steel tubing because it was intrinsically a standardized element for his type furniture as well as economical and hygienic. From 1923 Marcel Breuer began to do some designing, working for Walter Gropius' practice, where he collaborated on designing public housing. The buildings Marcel Breuer designed while working with Walter Gropius definitely represented important experiments and gave an impetus to Marcel Breuer's career. Nonetheless, the creative role played by Marcel Breuer as an architect is often underestimated in the shadow of the giant Walter Gropius. After his Bauhaus period, Marcel Breuer opened an architecture practice in Berlin in 1928. Problems with the German Architecture Association (BDA), which refused to admit Breuer until 1931, made Marcel Breuer concentrate initially on interior decoration and remodeling. Breuer's first building was "Haus Harnischmacher" (1931) in Wiesbaden. In 1933 Marcel Breuer designed the Doldertaler houses, two experimental housing units (in collaboration with Alfred and Emil Roth) for the founders of the Wohnbedarf company in Zurich. In 1933 Marcel Breuer emigrated to Hungary to escape persecution by the Nazis. In 1935 Breuer went to England. Walter Gropius brought Marcel Breuer to the US to teach at Harvard in 1937; Marcel Breuer became a professor for architecture at the Harvard School of Design. Breuer and Gropius ran a joint architecture practice for a time. In 1939 they built the Pennsylvania Pavilion for the New York World's Fair. The house built for Walter Gropius was set up as a "sample house" in the International Modern style; subsequently they designed numerous private houses. In 1941 Marcel Breuer again founded an architecture practice of his own, which he moved to New York in 1946. Marcel Breuer designed more than 70 private houses as well as numerous university and office buildings, all of them forward-looking in conception. Both in architecture and design, Marcel Breuer became an icon of Modernism.