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Marcel Breuer was an apprentice at the Bauhaus in 1925 when he conceived the first tubular steel chair. Named for his contemporary, Wassily Kandinsky, the tubular frame was inspired by a bicycle.

Marcel Breuer

Hungarian-born modernist, architect and furniture designer Marcel Breuer, started his sculptural vocabulary in a carpentry shop and later at the Bauhaus, making him one of the world’s most popular architects at the peak of 20th century design. In 1920, Breuer won a scholarship to study painting and sculpture at Vienna Academy of Fine Arts, however he left in a matter of weeks to work in an architect’s office. Encouraged by a friend, Breuer moved to Weimar, Germany to study at the Bauhaus art and design school that had recently been formed by Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. Protégé of Gropius, Breuer embodied many of the school's distinctive concepts, however a designer through-and-through, Breuer did not enjoy the theory side of his studies and dropped out in 1924 and temporarily worked as an architect in Paris, before returning to Bauhaus in 1925 to teach a furniture workshop.

 

 

During his time teaching he designed his tubular-steel furniture collection including the Wassily Chair, which was given its name years later when it was discovered that artist and Bauhaus teacher Wassily Kandinsky had one in his office. In 1928, Breuer resigned from the Bauhaus and spent time travelling Europe while drifting between architecture and furniture design. By 1935, when he travelled to London to meet Gropius, Breuer was one of the best-known designers in Europe. In 1937, Gropius asked him to join Harvard’s architecture faculty and during WWII their partnership revolutionised American house design while teaching a new generation of architects.

 

 

Breuer left Harvard in 1946 to set up an office in New York City with Eliot Noyes and from it they designed 70 houses mostly on the East Coast. For the rest of his career Breuer focused on architecture. Though Breuer still designed furniture for special projects such as the cut-out plywood MoMA Chair that he created in 1949 for the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Some of his most notable buildings include UNESCO's headquarters in Paris (1953), the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City (1963) and the headquarters of the Departments of HUD and HEW in Washington DC. In 1968, he won the American Institute of Architects’ Gold Medal and first ever Jefferson Foundation Medal that cited him “among all the living architects of the world as excelling all others in the quality of his work.”

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