Use your arrow keys to navigate between images and lots.
Bryn Mawr's Rhoads Residence Hall, an imposing Gothic structure, was built in 1937 and it was decided that modern furnishings would outfit the dormitory. That same year, Marcel Breuer joined the design faculty at Harvard, following his mentor Walter Gropius, who had become the head of the department. Breuer was commissioned by Bryn Mawr to design the furniture for Rhoads rooms, which included a desk, chair, shelf and mirror. The resulting suite was simple, unaffected and able to withstand the arduous academics of Bryn Mawr.
The designs premiered that following academic year, in October of 1938. While Breuer had been working with cut-plywood and refining the process for the previous decade, the commission from Bryn Mawr (his first in the United States) allowed him to adapt his designs to large-scale production and gained him an early positive review from the elite East Coast design community.
Marcel Breuer’s parents encouraged their children to take interest in culture and the arts from an early age, and when the Hungarian born designer turned eighteen he secured a scholarship to the prestigious Fine Arts Academy in Vienna. Uninterested in the lengthy discussions about aesthetic tradition and eager for a more practical education, he took a job in an architectural firm. When a friend told him about a new art school in Weimar Germany called the Bauhaus, Breuer promptly enrolled. Under the guidance of director Walter Gropius, Breuer became one of six apprentices to join the furniture workshop, producing his earliest known design in 1921, the African Chair. Breuer graduated in 1924 and after a brief time in Paris, returned to the school as the head of the of the carpentry worship in 1925. Inspired by his first bicycle, Breuer began working on designs for a chair made of tubular steel. The revolutionary steel club armchair, known as the Wassily, remains one of his most well-known designs to date.
In 1935, he joined former Bauhaus director Walter Gropius in England to work on a line of plywood furniture for Isokon and when Gropius took a teaching position at Harvard, Breuer moved to Cambridge and became a professor as well. Together the pair formed an architectural practice and began construction on their own homes and various residential projects around the area. In 1946, Breuer left Harvard to set up office in New York, taking on various commissions including an exhibition house with furnishings for the Museum of Modern Art in 1949. The MoMA project renewed interest in the designer, and Breuer completed several important commissions including the Whitney Museum, IBMs La Gaude Laboratory and the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Though Breuer preferred to be considered an architect first, the importance of his early furniture designs cannot be denied. He remains one of the most revolutionary and important figures of the 20th Century.