Have You Met Breuer? An Architectural Archive

An archive of illuminating material from the office of the great modernist architect and designer Marcel Breuer leads the architecture section of our April 26 auction of Fine Illustrated Books & Graphics.



The Met Breuer (previously the Whitney Museum of American Art), archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s.
Estimate $3,500 to $5,000.


Breuer began his career as a designer at the original Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany. He moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts to study architecture at Harvard and set up a private practice with his mentor, Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus. After his move to New York City in the 1940s, much of his success was due to partnerships with talented associates he hired and with whom he would generously share credits for major projects. In the late 1960s and ’70s, his partner was primarily Hamilton Smith, with whom he accomplished a number of notable commissions. The fruits of this relationship are documented in the archive.



The lower level of the Met Breuer. From the archive


Filling three large boxes is material documenting some of the architect’s most famous structures, including the Whitney Museum of American Art (now The Met Breuer). The bulk of the archive is devoted to this monolithic structure.



Papers from the archive of Marcel Breuer’s late-career office. 


In addition to photographs by Ezra Stoller, Ben Schnall, Shin Koyama and Joseph Molitor, there are also slides and gel positives of major commissions, as well as copies of reports, promotional publications, reproductions, diplomas, awards and acknowledgments for projects.



Breuer’s drawing for the Kuwait Market. From the archive


A large portion of the archive also consists of material relating to the team’s extensive work for St. John’s University, including the celebrated St. John’s Library and Abbey Church, with photographs, copies of master plan outlines, typed correspondence and copies of structural reports. Also present in the archive are papers for the Heckscher Museum; the Kuwait Markets, including a small sketch of the interior marked “this side reads right,” likely in Breuer’s hand; the Bobst Library at New York University, and Yale University’s Becton Engineering and Applied Science Center, among other documentation.



Becton Engineering and Applied Science Center at Yale University.
From the archive


The archive hints at the scope of Breuer’s prowess, even after his so-called retirement in 1976. His later projects, done in tandem with architectural equals such as Hamilton Smith, are almost entirely major institutional commissions, still in use by untold thousands of students, visitors, shoppers and worshippers daily.

Browse the full catalogue.