The Chair Man

By GREG COOK  |  April 27, 2009

Arriving in the United States in 1937, Breuer turned increasingly to architecture. He favored rectangles, grids, right angles. He moved horizontally, favoring massive rectangular boxes and flat roof slabs. (He built just one skyscraper.) His structures — like the house he built for himself in Lincoln, Massachusetts, beginning in 1937 — often were a series of various sized abutting boxes.

When Breuer's furniture didn't hit the sweet spot between less is more and less is less, his designs turned awkward, uncomfortable, cold. When his architecture goes wrong it's harsh, oppressive, affected — like New York's Whitney Museum of American Art ('64-'66). The Brutalist design of boxes stacked one atop the next like an upside-down pyramid resembles a fortress.

Better are buildings begun in the late '50s, like Begrisch Hall at New York University or St. John's Abby Church in Minnesota, which channel Space Age optimism and atomic angst. The hall looks like a spaceship perched on three legs. The church features a "bell tower" consisting of a flat stone slab on four legs that resembles a Stone Age radar array. They're weirder and warmer. Like his landmark chairs, they break away from ruthless rectangularity by way of soaring curves.

< prev  1  |  2  | 
  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Harvard University, New York University, Whitney Museum of American Art,  More more >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY GREG COOK
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   DOODLES, LIGHTS, AND DREAMS  |  July 16, 2014
    Gibson Prouty has found a muse — classic yellow pencils with pink erasers on the end.
  •   SEEING ANEW  |  July 09, 2014
    The aim of the RISD Museum’s eight newly renovated galleries for its permanent collection of fashion and Egyptian and Asian art seems to be “quiet contemplation.”
  •   BRIGHTNESS AND DARKNESS  |  June 25, 2014
    Constellations of mirror ball clouds dangle from the ceiling on pink cords at the center of the room and slowly rotate and sparkle. You’re invited to peer though weird, lumpy crystal-telescope-things.
  •   FIGHTING THE POWER  |  June 18, 2014
    It was around 1983 when Providence artist James Montford and a friend posed as photographers to check out the Ku Klux Klan rally in Norwalk, Connecticut.
  •   'VERY PROVIDENCEY'  |  June 11, 2014
    “World building” is an idea that percolates — perhaps unconsciously — through the visionary end of the Providence art scene.

 See all articles by: GREG COOK