Syracuse University Magazine

Breuer: A Designer's Creative Process


Marcel Breuer (1902-81), architect and furniture designer, was described by Time as a "form-giver of the 20th century." Born in Hungary, Breuer studied at the Bauhaus, the renowned German design school, and achieved early fame for furniture designs incorporating the hollow metal tubes used in bicycle handlebars. He left Germany in 1931, eventually settling in Boston, where he taught at Harvard and formed an architectural partnership with Walter Gropius, his Bauhaus mentor. Establishing his own firm in 1941, Breuer designed some of the most influential modern houses in America. His large-scale commissions include the Whitney Museum in New York City (1966). Responding to a proactive invitation from Syracuse University Library (SUL), Breuer donated papers, drawings, blueprints, and photographs during the 1960s. These holdings were significantly enhanced with donations from Constance Breuer following her husband's death. 

In 2009, SUL's Special Collections Research Center was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities grant to make the Breuer collection more accessible to scholars and the public. The project will fully process some 40,000 items from Syracuse and, in partnership with the School of Architecture, produce a digital scholarly reference work that connects works from the Smithsonian Institution, Harvard, and elsewhere. This new resource will offer unparalleled opportunities to observe Breuer's creative process.  —David Marc


Pictured: Breuer’s exterior rendering and floor plan for his own Cape Cod vacation home (ca. 1948). In the photograph, Constance Breuer looks on as the architect engages their son, Tomas, in a game of chess at the Wellfleet, Massachusetts, cottage.

Images courtesy of SU Special Collections Research Center