Bryn Mawr students outside Rhoads Hall
Interior of a room at Rhoads Hall

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 1902–1981

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.

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Auction Results Marcel Breuer