Breuer’s Bohemia: The Architect, His Circle, and Midcentury Houses in New England

Monacelli. Sept. 2021. 248p. ISBN 9781580935784. $60. ARCH
Of all the Bauhaus exponents, none was so protean as Marcel Breuer (1902–81). In formal terms he was more expressive than his mentor Walter Gropius, and he influenced a generation of students, including I. M. Pei, Philip Johnson, and Paul Rudolph. Whether designing tubular steel furniture, binuclear houses, or a poured-in-place concrete chapel, Breuer seemed, with clarity and daring, to expand the possibilities of whichever material he explored. It’s no surprise that Crump’s book about Breuer’s free-spirited clients and aesthetically pure residential designs in Litchfield, CT, is—with its boldface font, striking black-and-white photographs of clients, and perfectly framed color images of the houses—a most cinematic publication, especially since it accompanies Crump’s 2021 documentary of the same title.
VERDICT While in its focus on two Breuer clients, this book pairs well with Leonard Eaton’s Two Chicago Architects and Their Clients, Crump’s film tells a more compelling story of self-indulgent libertines who nonetheless became patrons of important work. Joachim Driller’s Breuer Houses (more comprehensively illustrated with floor plans) offers a deeper architectural understanding, but used in tandem with Syracuse University’s Digital Archive, Crump’s book is a worthy addition to larger architecture collections.
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