Breuer, Marcel

Atlanta Fulton County Central Library

Added by jon buono, last update: July 16, 2016, 4:21 pm

Atlanta Fulton County Central Library
Front elevation viewed from Forsyth Street (2011 Jon Buono)
Location
One Margaret Mitchell Square
Atlanta, GA 30303
United States
33° 45' 27.7956" N, 84° 23' 18.3336" W
Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Education (EDC)
Secondary classification:
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):

None

History of Building/Site
Original Brief:

The commission for the building arguably began with the strained conditions of Atlanta’s library system in the 1960s. As with many US metropolitan areas, rapid growth following WWII surpassed the service or function of municipal services which remained largely unimproved since before the 1940s. In January 1968, Carlton Rochell assumed the post of Atlanta Library Director. Rochell, a native of Tennessee, became a trailblazer in the advancement of library systems across the American South. Prior to Atlanta, he served 5 years in Anniston, Alabama where he successfully merged and desegregated the city and county systems.

Rochell’s hiring had followed a 1964 assessment of the Atlanta system by Joseph Wheeler, an authority on public library operations. Wheeler had identified many deficiencies in services as compared to similar municipalities. Rochell carried these findings further and suggested an inventory gap of approximately half a million volumes and advocated for establishing both a children’s program and an audio/visual collection. Momentum gained for an update to the Atlanta library system and modernization of the central repository. In anticipation of expansion, Library Board successfully purchased the remaining parcels on it’s city block with the intent to increase the present facility from 80,000SF to 200,000 SF.

Records suggest that Rochell was attuned to the discourse of modern architecture in the 1960s. Through his leadership the Library Board solicited the interest of multiple architects in New York, including Paul Rudolph, but ultimately selected Breuer in 1969. The commission was to plan and design an entirely new building for 1,000 users and 1 million volumes, based on an ambitious 275-page program.

It should be noted that this was not Breuer’s first contact with the city of Atlanta. In 1946, shortly after his emigration to the United States from Germany, Breuer was a participant in a design competition for a “Realistic House in Georgia” sponsored by Rich’s Department Store and the magazine “Progressive Architecture”. Seven years later, he visited the city as a keynote speaker for a modern design lecture series, created by the Atlanta Vassar Club and honoring his design of the college’s Ferry House dormitory.

Despite the 1969 selection did not advance due to local indecision on whether the new facility should be constructed at the current library site or a new site. At some point later in 1970, Breuer’s office was apparently released to prepare a schematic design for redevelopment of the existing library site. The submission, made March 1971, established the fundamental concepts for the library as ultimately built. The proposal accompanied an estimate of $15.2 million and a 2 – ½ year construction duration. The Library Board quickly presented the design concept to the public and it was warmly received by popular columnist Celestine Sibley in an Atlanta Journal Constitution Magazine article the following month.

Later in 1971, Atlanta businessman and philanthropist Robert Woodruff donated to the city a 75,000 SF parcel of properties he had purchased on Peachtree Street between Auburn and Edgewood Avenues. This prospect lead to a requested submission for an alternative schematic design (referred to as the Five Points site) and submitted by Breuer’s office (in collaboration with local architects Stevens & Wilkinson) in December 1971. The course of official decisions that followed submission of the two proposals is currently unknown, but the project effectively stalled. The Woodruff land donation did proceed to be developed as Central City Park (current day Woodruff Park), opening in 1973.

A significant project delay was also due to a dispute between the autonomous Library Board and city government over the bond referendum. Although a public vote was initially scheduled for the spring of 1972, successful passage for the $18.9 million library improvement bond was delayed until 1975. Breuer’s contract for construction design services lingered through the city’s procurement process until May of 1976. Breuer’s design development submission was ultimately submitted in July.

Breuer had initially undertaken the project in collaboration with design partner Hamilton Smith. Smith was one of Breuer’s first partners, having gained the position in 1964 during his leadership of the Whitney Museum project. The timing of the Atlanta project delays coincided with Breuer’s declining health and substantial retirement from practice in 1976. Although Breuer was kept abreast of all his ongoing projects, Smith’s responsibility in executing the Atlanta library design concept cannot be underestimated.

Although Atlanta-based Stevens and Wilkinson took responsibility for the construction documents, Breuer’s office remained closely involved in the development of project details, most notably leading the design for the custom pre-cast concrete façade panels. Following commence of construction, members of Breuer’s office made routine visits to Atlanta to monitor the activity and progress on site.

Due to his health, Breuer was unable to attend the building’s dedication ceremony on May 25, 1980, and he died a year later on July 1, 1981 at the age of 81.

Dates: Commission / Completion:1971: Concept designs for Forsyth Street and alternate Peachtree Street sites; 1976: Schematic Design and Design Development for Forsyth Street site; 1977: Construction begins October; 1980: Completion in May
Architectural and other Designer(s): Marcel Breuer and Hamilton Smith with Associates Carl Stein and Frank Richlan, Architects; Stevens and Wilkinson, Associate Architect and Consulting Engineers; Peter George Associates Inc., Acoustical Engineer; Donald Bliss, Lighting Designer; Original Movable Furnishings, HOK/Jenkins-Fleming, Inc.
Others associated with Building/Site: Carlton Rochell, Library Director 1968-1976; Ella G. Yates, Library Director 1976-1986; George Hyman Construction Company and Ozanne Company, General Contractors
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s): 1990: Installation of "Wisdom Bridge" sculpture (Richard Hunt, artist) at entrance plaza. mid-1990s: Closure of indoor cafe and outdoor seating terrace (entrance on Carnegie Way). dates-unknown: Closures of ground floor gift shop (designed by Breuer's Office), "Children's Entrance" on Williams Street, and drive-through book service. 2002: Interior renovation, installation of new carpet and paint finishes, repairs to entrance plaza waterproofing, repair of water damage to sub-grade auditorium, modification of entrance plaza grading and handrails for ADA access.
Current Use: Central Library & Library System Headquarters
Current Condition: Good
General Description:

The Atlanta Fulton County Central Library is the main library and central headquarters of a combined city-county library system. The building occupies an entire urban block within downtown Atlanta, adjacent to the Fairlie Poplar Historic District. . The library occupies a sloping site and has a terraced pedestrian entrance on its east elevation at Forsyth Street with vehicular service entrance on Fairlie Street. The rectangular building includes 10 stories, two of which are below grade.

The building mirrors that of grand civic libraries in Boston and Paris in its organization according to a "piano nobile". The open ground floor was originally programmed for circulation and general customer services, while the main reading rooms exist above the street level entrance and are accessed by a side northern staircase. Once ascended, occupants arrive at an expansive three-level volume of reading levels and book stacks, which are visually and vertically connected via a central monumental staircase.

Currently, the building retains the majority of its original programmatic layout, including: Lower level- Children’s Department, Art Gallery, Auditorium; First floor- Circulation & Customer Service; Second through Fourth floors- Book Stacks and Reading Rooms; Fifth floor- Special Collections, Offices, and Exterior Terrace; and Sixth through Eight Floors- Administration and Central Repository.

The library was conceived at a period in facility design which prioritized four factors: storage capacity for volumes ranging in the millions, publicly-accessible stacks, extensive climatic control systems, and restrictive lighting criteria to minimize UV damage to collections. The building expresses these design factors in it’s three-level storage facility, high-bay mechanical loft, and the controlled use of natural lighting.

The building’s division of levels is revealed at the exterior through a pattern of large-scale concrete façade panels which span the 15-foot floor heights. The irregularity of the individual floor plates is also expressed through setbacks and cantilevers which alternate at each elevation. The resulting geometric massing is monumental, and yet responsive to the pedestrian-scale within the dense urban site.

The expansive building interior was achieved by a robust structural system allowing for large unobstructed floor plates. The interior, and in particular the multi-level reading room, is animated by the introduction of natural light at strategic locations. A wide multi-story window at the second and third floor levels is located on the east exposure. Light from this elevation intersects illumination from four circular skylights, directly above the monumental staircase, which provide light from the upper roof terrace.

Construction Period:

Construction of the 245,000 SF library was executed by Washington D.C.-based George Hyman Construction Company (founded 1906) and the Ozanne Company – one of the oldest African-American owned construction companies in the country. The construction contract was notably completed ahead of schedule and under budget. These positive conditions allowed for immediate construction of the seventh and eight floor levels, which were originally engineered for erection in a later phase.

In the early months of 1977, the Atlanta’s existing 1902 library building and its 1950 addition were emptied of their collections. Demolition of those buildings and site preparation began in March. Sitework included extensive excavation to accommodate lower level parking, a sub-grade 300-seat theater, and structural footings to accommodate the substantial steel structural system.

Breuer’s office had worked in partnership with local Atlanta Firm Stevens and Wilkinson to produce both the architectural and engineering construction documents for the project, however the structural engineer of record has not been identified through research to date. Breuer’s office maintained responsibility for the majority of visible interior details in the project including custom millwork, handrails, hardware, wall finishes, and furniture - most notably for the children’s reading room. Notable building innovations included a computerized catalog system, automated compact shelving, AV listening booths, and a sub-level theater.

The building opening and dedication occurred on May 25, 1980, presided by Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson; Mary Lu Mitchell, Chairman of Library Board of Trustees; and Ella G. Yates, who assumed the Library Director position in 1976.

Original Physical Context:

The site of the the Atlanta Fulton County Central Library is located within the northeast quadrant of the 10-acre Fairlie Poplar Historic District. As defined by the National Register of Historic Places, the district represents Atlanta's historic central business district and includes the largest concentration of commercial and office buildings in Atlanta from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Individually, the buildings represent some of the city's finest late Victorian and early 20th-century commercial buildings, and range from storefront commercial buildings to skyscrapers.

The site of the current library was also the site of the city’s 1902 library building, designed by New York architects Ackerman and Ross, and the donation of American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. For the next sixty years, the site continued as the center of operations for a growing municipal library system, including an addition constructed in 1950 and multiple renovation campaigns. The determination to replace the existing facility in 1969, prompted preservation interests for the original 1902 building. In response to an ad-hoc committee of concerned citizens including modern architect Joseph Amisano, city historian Franklin Garrett, and Secretary of State Ben Fortson, the exterior façade of white Georgia marble columns, arches, and frieze were carefully dismantled and committed to storage for future use. The materials were eventually re-erected as a free-standing architectural monument in advance of the the 1996 Olympics. Referred to as the “Carnegie Education Pavilion”, the monument is located in Hardy Ivy Park and was designed by architect Henri Jova.

Evaluation
Technical Evaluation:

The Atlanta Fulton County Central Library displays a degree of structural sophistication and innovation common to work throughout Breuer’s career. Both the scale and flexibility of the building layout are attributed to a steel structural system which provides the 30’ by 45’ primary column bays. The system was additionally engineered for 15-foot floor to floor spans of the public floor levels.

By the 1960s, Breuer was internationally regarded as a pioneer in the use of concrete construction. Within the course of Breuer’s career, the Atlanta project is particularly significant for its novel use of a pre-cast concrete façade. Although the use of exterior stone veneer was a common treatment among Breuer’s civic designs, multiple conditions in the library project prompted a uniquely engineered exterior system. Foremost, the precast panels yielded a far more structurally efficient assembly and eliminated the need of back-up walls to anchor masonry veneer. But additional innovations and economies were achieved through advanced manufacturing techniques at an off-site production facility. Sizes for the reinforced panels were maximized so that the exterior composition of panels would directly reflect the geometric arrangement of floor levels. Pre-casting also allowed production of complex, three-dimensional structural shapes which were not feasible in stone. Notably the many cubic angles of the exterior were manufactured as individual units to eliminate the presence of corner joints. Compound molds were also used to achieve the continuous splayed jambs throughout the building’s large scale windows. Following completion, the project received a special recognition from the American Prestressed Concrete Institute.

Breuer’s embrace of the material carried with it a sensitivity to the immediate perception of it’s surface. As quoted in a 1973 publication, the architect stated “the greatest esthetic design potential in concrete is found through interrupting the plane in such a way that sunlight and shadow will enhance its form, while through changing exposure a building will appear differently at various moments of the day.” In Atlanta, the scale of the façade panels was softened through the texture of a surface treatment. The panel formwork was designed with a diagonal pattern of narrow ribs across each exterior plane. After being released from the forms, the hardened concrete ribs were meticulously bush-hammered by hand to achieve the rough, irregular surface which provides such visual contrast to the scale and regularity of the panel geometry.

Social:
Cultural & Aesthetic:
The Atlanta Fulton County Central Library is notable not only as the most significant project of Breuer’s late career, but also as an evolution in his twenty-year exploration of the library building typology. Throughout those years, Breuer produced designs for six library projects. His experimentation with the programme was first realized in the design for the public library in Grosse Pointe, Michigan (1951-52). In that project and others to follow throughout the 1960s (Hunter College-1960, St. John’s University-1966) his design approach was defined by relatively simple schemes of rectangular forms. The exterior appearances, while suitably scaled for their sites, belied complex and expressive structural systems devised to provide expansive reading rooms with minimal intrusion of columns. The projects were also noted for their experimentation in modulating natural light with large screening systems, clerestories, and skylights. The Atlanta project – the largest among Breuer’s libraries – was a bold departure from the low-slung, box-like compositions that defined his earlier projects. Breuer and his team’s attention to the volumetric experience of a reading room however, remained constant. The requisite scale of the Atlanta project prompted a complex and decisively urban composition of circulation and secondary spaces which sets it apart from the other work in Breuer portfolio. The refinement of the building programme, along with the resulting composition, may be regarded as a unique resolution of his library designs with the urban form-making pioneered in the Whitney Museum (1966). And because the building occupies a full city block versus the Whitney’s corner site, the sculptural concepts could be more fully realized.
Historical:

The commission and design of the Atlanta Fulton County Central Library coincided with a national focus on the status of American libraries. The National Advisory Commission on Libraries (NACL), appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966, was charged with examining libraries nationwide and determining the role of federal support for the future. It was recommended that a National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (NCLIS) be established for the purpose of long-range planning. This commission was created in 1970 with the goal to "eventually provide every individual in the United States with equal opportunity of access to that part of the total information resource which will satisfy the individual’s educational, working, cultural and leisure-time needs and interests, regardless of the individual’s location, social or physical condition of level of intellectual achievement."

General Assessment:
Documentation
Text references:

"100 Years of Library Service." 100 Years of Library Service. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 July 2016. .
"Look Back ... to a Change of Service at Anniston Airport, 1991." The Anniston Star. N.p., 31 Mar. 1991. Web. 13 July 2016. .
"Atlanta–Fulton Public Library System." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 13 July 2016. .
"Biographical History." Marcel Breuer Papers. Syracuse University Libraries, n.d. Web. 12 July 2016. .
Garrett, Franklin Miller. Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events. Athens: U of Georgia, 2011. Print.
Hyman, Isabelle, and Marcel Breuer. Marcel Breuer, Architect: The Career and the Buildings. New York: H.N. Abrams, 2001. Print.
Lerner, Jonathan. "Atlanta’s Urge for a Trendy New Central Library May Mean That Time Is up for Marcel Breuer’s Final Building." Metropolis Feb. 2009: n. pag. Print.
United States. National Park Service. "Fairlie--Poplar Historic District--Atlanta: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary." National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior, n.d. Web. 13 July 2016. .

Authoring
Recorder/Date: Jon Buono, Associate AIA / July 2016
Additional Images
Atlanta Fulton County Central Library
South elevation (1980 Stevens and Wilkinson)
Atlanta Fulton County Central Library
Detail of north corner at entrance plaza (1980 Stevens and Wilkinson)
Atlanta Fulton County Central Library
Interior view of monumental staircase (1980 Stevens and Wilkinson)
Atlanta Fulton County Central Library
Detail of bush-hammered finish on pre-cast concrete facade panels (2011 Jon Buono)

Begrisch Hall

Added by intern_test, last update: August 17, 2012, 1:46 pm

Begrisch Hall
Location
2155 University Avenue
Bronx, NY 10453
United States
40° 51' 25.236" N, 73° 54' 35.3052" W
Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Education (EDC)
Secondary classification:
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):

New York City Landmark: 2002

History of Building/Site
Original Brief:

Beginning in the 1940's, New York University embarked on a campaign to further develop their campus - then located in University Heights in the Bronx. Marcel Breuer, already a famed architect by that time, was commissioned to design several buildings. He was asked in 1956 to develop a comprehensive design for the replanning and new construction of the campus. Five buildings were constructed from Breuer's plan, with Begrisch Lecture Hall being the most radical.

Dates: Commission / Completion:Commission: 1956 / Start of site plan: 1959 / Completion: 1961
Architectural and other Designer(s): Architect: Marcel Breuer
Others associated with Building/Site: Original owner: New York University Current owner: Bronx Community College
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s):
Current Use: Begrisch Hall is currently used for its original purpose - a building containing two educational lecture halls. However, though it was originally commissioned by New York University, it is Bronx Community College that now operates on the campus and utilizes all buildings.
Current Condition: The current condition is fairly good. It is generally in good repair, with no obvious major damage to the exterior of the structure. This is most likely a result of the building's consistent use as an educational lecture hall. It has benefited from the regular upkeep and maintenance of both NYU and Bronx Community College through the years. There is some water damage and discoloration to the exposed concrete, which appears to come from the metal facing that lines the meeting between the walls and the roof. The exposed underside facade of Begrisch Hall appears to be in the worst condition. While at the construction it may have appeared neater more stylized, it currently looks rather unkempt and dirty.
General Description:

Begrisch Hall, composed of reinforced exposed concrete, is a building that mirrors the form and function of its interior. Used as a lecture hall, Breuer has revealed the steep theater and the aisle steps of the interior in the design of the structure as a whole.
The building features two sidewall trusses that appear to sit just barely on the ground, even as they support two cantilevered upward slopes that form the theater section of the lecture hall. The sidewall trusses are the only element of the building that actually touch the ground, so the hall has the feeling of hovering over the land. The building is entered through a small exterior staircase or an enclosed walkway coming from an adjacent building.
The main facades of the building, east and west, are decorated with separated panels of concrete in trapezoidal shapes. Each panel is textured so that the grooves of the exposed concrete run in different directions. The north and south facades are simply faced in a simpler exposed concrete. Because of the unusual shape of the sloping cantilevered wall, there is an underside of the building that is quite exposed on the exterior. This facade has a highly textured pattern of grooves following the facade down to the ground. This area also exposes the form of the interior lecture hall stairs that it is supporting.
Begrisch Hall is a brutalist style of building - the term brutalist coming from the French "beton brut" refering to exposed, unfinished concrete.

Construction Period:

Breuer began his master plan for the University Heights campus in 1959. While the planning was not officially finished until 1970, Begrisch Hall was completed in 1961.

Original Physical Context:

Prior to implementing the university's new building campaign, the prominent buildings on the University Heights campus were designed by Standford White. The main focus of these buildings was the famed Gould Library. For over 50 years these buildings were uncontested, and the university made an effort for subsequent designs on the campus to blend in rather than attract any attention away from the Classical White structures. This philosophy changed radically when they commissioned Breuer - an architect known for refusing to conform to Classical standards of design or order - to plan five new structures on the campus. These radical new buildings were set completely apart from White's older designs, and made a clear statement that the campus was launching itself into a new modern era.

Evaluation
Technical Evaluation:

Begrisch Hall uses many of the modernist techniques seen radical and unique at the time. Breuer's use of the brutalist method of exposed concrete as the only facing of the building was a favored technique of his, but still wholly uncommon in most designs up to that time. The strange trapezoidal shape of the lecture hall, using side trusses and sloping cantilevers to form the odd, asymmetrical quality of the building, was exemplary of the modernist movement.

Social:

Given that Begrisch Hall was constructed on a campus previously populated with Classical designs by Stanford White, this modernist building certainly made a social statement. Breuer exhibited an unwillingness to cooperate with the current atmosphere of the campus or design buildings that would contribute to the general aesthetic already put in place by White's earlier buildings. His new design for the campus was almost like an assault on the current buildings on the campus and the brutalist style of Begrisch Hall could not help but make a bold statement. By commissioning Breuer to plan their new building campaign, New York University was knowingly thrusting themselves into the modern aesthetic.

Cultural & Aesthetic:
Historical:

Begrisch Hall holds its status as an important building of the modernist movement. It's unique design and brutalist qualities continue to give the lecture hall significance as an architecturally interesting and important structure. Already a famed architect at the time of the hall's design, Breuer's fame has not waned, and his designs are still lauded.

General Assessment:
The continuing significance of Begrisch Hall stems from its daring and radical design, especially when considering the previous physical context in which it was built. Breuer's modern designs, injected into a campus defined by the ordered designs of Stanford White, turn the campus into a kind of modernist sculpture garden. Since Breuer was already well-known at the time, this design did not have a particularly dramatic effect on his career. It is, however, yet another large success in a canon of impressive and powerful designs.
Documentation
Text references:

Depicted Item: NYC Landmarks Commission Designation Report
Source: NYC Landmarks Commission
Date: 2002

Depicted Item: Bronx Community College Architecture
Source: Lehman College Art Gallery
Date: Accessed November 29, 2010

Authoring
Recorder/Date:
Additional Images
Begrisch Hall

Robert C. Weaver Federal Building, Headquarters for Department of Housing and Urban Development

Added by jon buono, last update: October 14, 2011, 8:18 pm

Robert C. Weaver Federal Building, Headquarters for Department of Housing and Urban Development
Location
451 Seventh St., SW
Washington, D.C., DC 20410
United States
38° 53' 2.4576" N, 77° 1' 19.236" W
Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Administration (ADM)
Secondary classification:
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):

National Register of Historic Places: August 2008; Washington, D.C. landmark: June 2008

History of Building/Site
Original Brief:

The building was originally designed as the federal headquarters for the Department of Housing and Urban Development to accommodate 6,000 employees. In the summer of 1963, initial negotiation began with Marcel Breuer, Herbert Beckhard, and Nolan-Swineburne & Associates. In 1964, Breuer et al. received tentative approval for the building design and landscaping. Construction broke ground in July 1965 and was completed in 1968. Significantly, the project was $3 million under budget, illustrating that federal architecture could be cutting-edge and affordable. Upon opening, the building was immediately heralded as a success by architectural critics and politicians. Breuer’s original landscaping for the six-acre site was not fully implemented until 1976. His plan called for a flagstone paved plaza, concrete lampposts, bollards, and a monumental sign.

Dates: Commission / Completion:Site-testing: 1921 (c) / Commission: 1964 (c) / Start of construction: July 1965 (a) / Completion: 1968 (c)
Architectural and other Designer(s): Architects: Marcel Breuer, Herbert Beckhard, and Nolen Swinburne Associates; Structural Engineer: Paul Weidlinger & Associates Project Manager: General Services Administration; Builder: John McShain, Inc.
Others associated with Building/Site: In 2000, the HUD building was named in honor of Dr. Robert C. Weaver, the first Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and first African American Cabinet Member.
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s): Throughout the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, while the façade of the building remained intact, the interior spaces of the building were continuously remodeled and reconfigured to meet the needs and demands of new administrations. In 1990, Secretary Henry Cisneros initiated plans for a redesign of the HUD building’s plaza space in conjunction with the repair work needed for the underground garage. Landscape architect Martha Schwartz was commissioned for the redesign of the entrance plaza. In Schwartz’s original design, the canopies and planned surfaces were brilliant oranges, reds, yellows, and blues. Andrew Cuomo, Cisneros’ successor, was not on board with Schwartz’s avant-garde proposal and called for a review of the design. Ultimately, the bright color palate was rejected; Schwartz and the GSA compromised on white.
Current Use: The building is currently used as it was originally intended, as the federal headquarters for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Current Condition: The HUD building has retained much of its interior and exterior integrity. Over the last forty years, changes have been made to the interior spaces, especially to the large swing spaces and office corridors. The main lobby retains its original brush-hammered concrete finish and flagstone flooring. The executive offices on floors 4 through 10 also retain much of their original finishes. The original amenities—a cafeteria, library, health office, and credit union—exist in their original locations. However, they have been remodeled. The exterior of the building is in good condition and has not been altered.
General Description:

The basic plan shape of the building is an elongated “X” with a central core curving out into diagonal wings. The ends of each wing have no windows and are veneered in granite. The building is ten stories high, has two basement floors, and a garage under the front entrance plaza. The ground floor is set back fifteen feet behind the columns, creating an arcade space around the base of the building. Flagstone paving is used continuously from the plaza into the lobby space.

Construction Period:

The main structural window-walls are made out of precast concrete that rests on cast-in-place concrete “trees.” The concrete trees were cast in plank-lined steel forms and retain the wood’s texture, which provides a visual contrast to the smooth upper massing.

Original Physical Context:

The HUD building is located in Southwest D.C., in the area of L'Enfant Plaza, which was part of D.C.'s first urban renewal program in the 1950s. During this program, a series of modern movement office buildings were constructed alongside one another. I.M. Pei designed the preliminary urban plans, as well as the buildings that comprise L'Enfant Plaza. Breuer's design for the HUD building stands out as a different form of modernism, set against the surrounding rectangular office buildings.

Evaluation
Technical Evaluation:

The HUB building was the first federal building to utilize precast concrete and poured-on-site concrete for structural and aesthetic purposes.

Social:

The Housing and Urban Development Act was passed in 1965, and in its passing, created the United State Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The HUD building was erected in the city’s first urban redevelopment area, in Southwest D.C. The placement of the headquarters was intended to symbolize the federal government’s commitment to its urban redevelopment projects, and “[embody] the values promulgated by HUD itself.”

Cultural & Aesthetic:
The HUD building was the first federal building constructed under President John F. Kennedy’s 1962 “"Guiding Principles of Federal Architecture," and the first federal building to use precast concrete for both structural and aesthetic purposes. The HUD building is significant because it redefined the next wave of federal architecture and kick-started the use of concrete as an architectural finish in public structures. It was also the first federal building to embrace modular design. HUD was seen as a turning point for the Department of Housing and Urban Development and for public architecture. In the HUD building, Breuer continued to develop the architectural language he had been experimenting with in the late 1950s into the 1960s. HUD’s sculptural precast concrete forms, unique windows, and curvilinear “X” floor plan are a clear extension of the architectural aesthetic Breuer worked with in the IBM La Guarde building in 1961, and even earlier at the UNSECO building in Paris in the mid 1958. In this way, HUD is a meaningful part of the story of Breuer’s work with precast concrete forms and his experimentation with the expressive nature of concrete. HUD was also Breuer’s first U.S. government commission.
Historical:

While at the time of its construction, and in the years immediately preceeding its opening, general consensus saw the HUD building as a modern, innovative, and "urbane" project. It was a builing for Washington, D.C. to be proud of, and President Lyndon Johnson said that it was "bold and beautiful." However, public opinion of the building and the Schwartz plaza have changed. When Breuer's building was up for designation in 2008, Washington D.C. citizens attacked the building for being out of context, irrelevant, and hostile to pedestrians. Although the HUD building was designated that year, many of these public opinions remain.

General Assessment:
The HUD building is a significant building designed by internationally renowned architect Marcel Breuer. This structure is critical to the understanding of the development of federal architecture and the use of precast concrete in expressionist modern architecture. Furthermore, the building is significant in light of its social, political, cultural, and aesthetic impact; it represent HUD’s ideological stance and hopes for urban redevelopment at its advent in the 1960s.
Documentation
Text references:

Alpert, Dave. "HUD building up for landmarking." Greater, Greater Washington. 12 Jan 2008.
Web. 4 Aug 2010 < http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post.cgi?id=945>.

Curtis, William J. Modern Architecture Since 1900. London: Phaidon Press, 1996 (3rd Edition).

Forgey. “Flying Saucers At HUD; Whimsy Saves Simplified Design.” The Washington Post 6
Jun. 1998, final ed: C01.

Gatje, Robert F. Marcel Breuer: A Memoir. New York: Monacelli Press, 2000.

Huxtable, Ada Louise. "The House That HUD Built: Architecture The House That HUD Built."
New York Times 22 Sept. 1968.

“HUD Building Seen as Turning Point for Department and Public Architecture.” Journal of
Housing 25.8 (1968): 405-408.

Hyman, Isabelle. Marcel Breuer, Architect: the Career and the Buildings. New York: H.N.
Abrams, 2001.

Marcel Breuer papers, 1920-1986. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Washington, D.C. McKee, Bradford. "White out." Architecture 45 (1 August 1998): 45.

Papachristou, Tician. Marcel Breuer: New Buildings and Projects. New York: Praeger, 1970.

Project for Public Spaces. Web. March 2004 .

Richard, Paul. “Public Building Boss Seeking Best in Design: Started With Doors Draw 'Name'
Architects.” The Washington Post 6 Nov. 6 1965: A5.

United States General Services Administration, Public Buildings Service. Growth, Efficiency,
and Modernism: GSA Buildings of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.Washington, DC: U.S. General
Services Administration, 2003.

United States General Services Administration, Public Buildings Service. United States
Department of Housing and Urban Development Building; Historic Landmark Designation
Case No. 08-15. U.S. General Services Administration, 2008.

U.S. General Services Administration. Web. March 2004 .

Vitra Design Museum. Marcel Breuer: Design and Architecture. Weil am Rhein: Vitra Design
Museum, 2003.

Von Eckardt, Wolf. "Breuer's New HEW: Fine Designs, Dollar Signs: Cityscape." The
Washington Post 13 May 1972.

Von Eckardt, Wolf. “Exposed Concrete’ Buildings Denting a Stone Wall Here.” Washington Post
18 April 1965.

Authoring
Recorder/Date: Sarah Modiano / March 4, 2010

Geller House

Added by GConnell, last update: October 27, 2011, 9:38 pm

Geller House
Aerial photo of house and grounds, source: Jones, Cranston. Marcel Breuer: Buildings and Projects 1921-1961. Frederick A. Praeger, Publisher. New York. 1962., date: 1962
Location
175 Ocean Avenue
Village of Lawrence, Town of Hempstead, NY 11559
United States
40° 36' 3.5028" N, 73° 43' 26.7564" W
Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Residential (RES)
Secondary classification:
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):
History of Building/Site
Original Brief:
Dates: Commission / Completion:Begun 1944, completed January 25, 1947
Architectural and other Designer(s): Breuer, Marcel: Architect and furnishings designer. Capobianco, John F.: Architect of 1992 alterations (159 Doughty Boulevard, Inwood, NY). Rosenthal, Leon: Architect of 1967 pool installation (859 Sunrise Highway, Babylon, NY).
Others associated with Building/Site: Contractor: Gordon Roth. Building Inspector at time of construction: Albert A. Hart. Project Plumber: William E. Whitehouse (shop at 9 East Chester Street, Long Beach). Contractor (1967 alteration): Karl Bonawandt, A.A.A. Swimming Pool Corp. (1072 Sunrise Hwy. Amityville, NY). Plumber (1974 sewer installation): C&H Collins, Inc.
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s): Pool added to property - 1967. Pool cabana added; porch screened in - 1992.
Current Use: Private residential. Owned and occupied by Mr. & Mrs. B. Geller (Burton and Helene Geller). Current lot size is 1.106 acres.
Current Condition: The Geller Main House is in good condition. Nassau County rates the main house as having an “excellent CDU” (CDU is a code that denotes the composite rating of the overall condition, desirability, and usefulness of the property). The Geller Guest House/Garage is in average condition. Nassau County rates the guest house/garage as having a “very good” CDU.
General Description:

The Geller House is a one-family one-story home. Large floor-to-ceiling windows punctuate the façade, which is composed of stained wood and fleidstone. Only to the home’s doors has color been applied. The roofline is butterfly-pitched and is in contrast to the flat Long Island topography.
The Geller House, when designed and constructed, was situated on a corner lot that had a 456’-0" front along Ocean Avenue and 221’-0" sides. That lot was subdivided between 1963 and 1967; the new lot retains the 221’-0" sides but has a frontage which has been reduced to 245'-0". The main house Breuer designed and built for the Geller family is 77’-0" x 67'-0". The house is set back 59'-0" from Ocean Avenue and 120’-0" from the rear of the property. The house was originally set back 60’-0" from either of the side property lines and took up ten percent of the total property. From the ground to the highest point of the roof beams, the house reaches 15’-0" and is one story tall, with a cellar.
Set on the same lot as the main house, the garage is 80’-0" x 20’-0" and, also one story tall, reaches a height of 12'-0". The garage is set back 34’ from Ocean Avenue and 77’-0" from the rear. It was originally set back 140’-0" from both sides of the lot although, after the lot was subdivided, it now sits just 25’-0" from one adjacent lot. Situated on a corner lot, the placement of the garage provides the main house with increased privacy.
The main house has a total of 2,284 square feet. It has five bedrooms, three full bathrooms, one fireplace, a child’s play area, one kitchen, a living/dining area, and a wash room (complete with a laundry sink, tub, and washing machine). Breuer designed the layout of the home so that similar functions would be situated near each other. One enters the house through the main hall. Two small coat closets are situated to the left and right of the front door. A set of French doors in the hall open to the rear porch, which was screened-in in August, 1992. A classic feature of Breuer’s “bi-nuclear” house, the hall serves as the dividing space between the home’s daytime and nighttime areas. Walking to the right from the front hall, one enters the nighttime area, where the three children’s rooms, playroom, bathroom, master bedroom, and master bathroom are located. Two doors in the playroom lead directly to the front and back yard. The children’s rooms do not have doors and open directly into the playarea which has floor-to-ceiling windows. The openness of the design creates the illusion of a larger space than which actually exists; it also promotes an enhanced sense of freedom for the children to move about in their home.
The dining room and living room are the first two rooms to the left of the entry hall. The two rooms are separated only by a bookshelf. A fireplace is situated in the living room, furthest from the dining room. Floor-to-ceiling windows allow a great deal of light to enter the living room.
The kitchen is adjacent to the dining room and the two rooms are separated by sliding panels that allow food and dishes to be passed between the two rooms. The utility room is adjacent to the kitchen; it is also adjacent to the maids room and bathroom. The utility room was designed to be extremely functional and efficient, with an ironing board that could be unfolded from a built-in cabinet. The kitchen and utility room are separated by walls of structural glass. The Geller House bathroom walls are also all constructed using structural glass. A service entry is located in the utility room, which leads to an outdoor path which connects the main house to the garage/guest house.
The garage/guest house is located just northeast of the main house. It has a total living area of 1,200 square feet. Upon entry to the guest house, bedrooms are located to both the left and to the right. A door leading to a small full bathroom is located directly in the entry area. A storage room is located adjacent to the guest quarters and has its own exterior entry. The garage (carport) is located adjacent to the storage room.
In August 1967 a swimming pool was installed behind the house (see photo).
In 1992 a pool cabana was added to the property in proximity to the pool. That same year, the back porch was screened-in.

Construction Period:

Construction details can be found in "Technical" section.

Original Physical Context:

Marcel Breuer was introduced to Bertram Geller through contractor Gordon Roth. Commissioned just after World War II, Marcel Breuer designed the Geller house to meet the needs of modern American family living. The Geller family consisted of Bertram and Phyllis and their three sons, the eldest of whom was seven. Geller had specific ideas about how the home for his wife and children should be designed, but Breuer found those ideas to be very “child un-friendly” and thus convinced Geller to adopt a design concept which could better accommodate a growing family. The home Breuer proposed to build for Geller was “bi-nuclear.” Breuer’s bi-nuclear concept, consistent with Breuer’s background, is rooted in the Bauhaus. The concept consisted of two elements which have been joined, roughly in the shape of an “H.” The center of the “H” divides the daytime and nighttime uses: separating “…presentable spaces from the necessarily chaotic domain of children.” House & Garden, in 1947, referred to this house as a “complete departure” from the old fashioned bungalow, where bedrooms radiated at random from the main living rooms.” Breuer, when talking about his residential designs, spoke primarily about their “convenience of operation” and how design facilitates family living; the Geller house was designed with much consideration given to this convenience.

Evaluation
Technical Evaluation:

Construction: Both the main house and the garage/guest house were constructed using Western framing. Some of the main house façade was constructed using masonry although stained redwood panels were used for the majority of the exteriors of both the garage and main house and also for the interior garage walls. The sills, posts, plates, and braces were also constructed from wood (fir) and were all, with the exception of the exterior garage wall bracing (which was 1”x6”), were 4”x4.” The main house interior walls were constructed of weld board while the interior of the garage was constructed of wood. The studding of all interior walls was 2”x4” on 16” centers. The wooden walls were protected from the pipes with rock wool insulation. The foundation of the main house was constructed of 8” thick concrete which was sunk 4’ below grade. The footing for the main house foundation walls was earth. No piers were used for construction of the main house. The garage foundation was constructed of concrete and stone. Because the garage was set on a sand base, concrete footings and piers in addition to stone walls were used in foundation construction.
The floors of the Geller house are constructed of 6” thick concrete; the garage floor was reinforced with ½” rods set 6” on center.
All roofs are flat and were constructed using asphalt and gravel. Rafters are 2”x10” and are spaced 16” on center. The main house was constructed to use dry wells to dispose of roof water, while the garage was designed to use a copper leader to do the same.
The main house has one chimney, which was constructed of tile.
Until 1974 when the property was connected to the Village sewer system, the Geller house had one cast iron cesspool, the diameter of which was 5” and which fell ¼” per foot. The cesspool was situated 15’ from the main house. The Geller house was also constructed with two cast iron soil pipes, three of which extended above the roof.
Corresponding to the 1967 addition of the swimming pool, a dry well was installed on the property. In 1992, a one story pool cabana was erected on the property.

Technical: Marcel Breuer paid great attention to all details of the Geller House. One of the most prominent technical features that Breuer incorporated into the home’s design was the butterfly-pitched roof, which eliminated gutters and drains at the roof edge. This roofline also addressed the technical problems with flat roofs which, which were common by the late 1940’s. The design incorporated a new edging detail “…made with standard metal coping sections applied on the job without soldering or welding…” and that would keep the edge much more watertight than earlier designs. The roof also incorporated tar and gravel to allow for inside drainage.
The layout of the home was designed, similar to many of Breuer’s residential homes, with the potential for its expansion: in this instance, the garage could eventually become an additional bedroom and bathroom.
The full-height windows on both sides of the living area were frosted on the lower sections so that both light and privacy could be incorporated into the space. These glass walls were double thickness, providing insulation and eliminating heat loss. Outside the house, horizontal louvers in front of the upper panels further reduce glare inside the living room from glare from the sky and helped to create a more even distribution of daylight. Smaller technical details that Breuer incorporated into the Geller house were a dishwasher, washing machine, gas dryer, and a television-radio-phonograph console. Breuer even designed the dishes and linens. The walls, doors, and any uncarpeted floors were lacquered so that they would be washable and resilient to any damage the children may cause them.
The garage was designed so that there would be a two-foot space between the sidewalls and the ground so that snow that blew could also be blown out. There is a wall grille in the rear of the garage which provides ventilation to the adjacent storage room.
Unlike many residential mechanical/electrical systems during the 1940’s, Marcel Breuer designed the Geller House to have a centralized mechanical/electrical system. The “mechanical core” of the home was located in a small 4’ x 7’ room situated directly off of the children’s playroom. The home was warmed using radiant heat. Floor coils were grouped in four sections of the home and could be adjusted using a thermostat. Automatic controls helped to adjust heat based on the penetration of sunlight and to shifting winds.

Social:

The Geller House is not only one of Breuer’s earliest American works, but it is his first realized building upon his split from Gropius, the architect with whom Breuer had previously designed many buildings. As World War II came to a close, many architectural periodicals held design competitions to “…propose family houses that could be put up quickly and cheaply – also, to some extent, as a contribution to the potentially desirable aim of re-establishing ‘family values.’” Breuer’s bi-nuclear plan for the Geller house was built in response to such a competition held by California Arts and Architecture entitled ‘Designs for post-war living.” At the time the Geller House was constructed, there was a ban on residential construction on Long Island. Despite this ban, Breuer was permitted to build the house because it “…was regarded by the U.S. government as an experimental prefabricated house – one, conceivably, that could be adopted on a large scale after the war. Its bi-nuclear plan was seen to be ideal for the postwar family.” When it was constructed, “modern” houses did not exist in the suburbs; it paved the way for a wave of subsequent modern homes in suburban areas and, specifically, in Long Island.
The Geller House was important because it was constructed of “brand new thinking, realized in wood and stone.” It has been planned so that two generations can live closely with each other, without getting in each other’s way.
The Geller House is also socially significant for the dramatic impact that it had on Herbert Beckhard. Beckhard regards the Geller House as a catalyst for his chosen career as an architect and as an inspiration for the way that he thought about architecture.

Cultural & Aesthetic:
Between 1925 and 1960 extensive residential construction occurred on Long Island. These homes, termed “Long Island Modern, “…preceded the post-1960’s wave of arrogant, showy construction.” A 1987 exhibit of Long Island Modern architecture at East Hampton’s Guild Hall displayed a compilation of this architectural type and served as a reminder that Long Island was once one of the country’s major incubators for modern architecture. One of the reasons that Long Island was an appropriate landscape for modern design was its open, horizontal stretches of landscape. Marcel Breuer’s Geller House, for its innovative bi-nuclear design, was a major contributor to the modern aesthetic which developed on Long Island during that time period. The Geller House represented “…an ideal – indeed, glamorous – the image of upper-middle-class modern life. Its success opened for Breuer a window on the possibilities of independence architectural practice in a postwar America rich with optimism and with fresh cultural and material prospects in a period of disappearing austerity.”
Historical:

In 1947, House & Garden magazine awarded the Geller House “honorable mention” in a design competition and acknowledged it as “…one of the most successful modern houses built since the war.”

General Assessment:
The Geller House, as one of the earliest executions of Marcel Breuer’s bi-nuclear design, helped set the stage for a trend in residential modern design on Long Island in the years following World War II. Its butterfly-pitched roof and its efficient design scheme that distinguished between daytime and nighttime uses became a prototype for how modern family living could be ideally achieved.
Documentation
Text references:

Blake, Peter. Marcel Breuer: Architect and Designer. Architectural Record / The Museum of Modern Art. New York, 1949.
Driller, Joachim. Breuer Houses. Phaidon Press Limited. London, 2000.
Great Buildings Online: http://www.greatbuildings.com/buildings/Geller_House.html.
Hyman, Isabelle. Marcel Breuer, Architect: The Career and the Buildings. Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers. New York, 2001.
Jones, Cranston. Marcel Breuer: Buildings and Projects 1921-1961. Frederick A. Praeger, Publisher. New York, 1962.
“Marcel Breuer: Design and Architecture.” Vitra Design Museum. Germany, 2003.
Masello, David. Architecture Without Rules: The Houses of Marcel Breuer and Herbert Beckhard. W.W. Norton & Company. New York, 1993.
“The Geller House, Lawrence, Long Island.” Progressive Architecture (41) 50-66. 1947.
“Tomorrow’s House Today.” House & Garden (91) 60-67. 1947.
Village of Lawrence, Department of Buildings. Building Inspector, Daniel J. Herron. (516) 239-3987.building@villageoflawrence.org.
Wilk, Christopher. Marcel Breuer: Furniture and Interiors. The Museum of Modern Art. New York, 1981.

Authoring
Recorder/Date: Gillian Connell / March 5, 2009

Met Breuer formerly the Whitney Museum of American Art

Added by Lindsey Schweinberg, last update: March 16, 2016, 6:29 pm

Met Breuer formerly the Whitney Museum of American Art
Location
945 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10021
United States
40° 46' 24.0348" N, 73° 57' 48.9528" W
Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Recreation (REC)
Secondary classification:
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):
History of Building/Site
Original Brief:

Design brief: According to Marcel Breuer, there was no time to decide upon the building’s design ahead of his selection. (New York Times, “Whitney Museum Finds a New Home” June 18, 1963.)
 The initial program requirements included:  3991sf of service and work space; 29,817 sf of gallery and exhibition space; 2,926 sf of office space, 1,050 sf of library space; 1,584 sf of lounges and meeting rooms, 950sf of supply closet and coat check space; 1,500 sf of lobby space.  The building committee consulted Philip Johnson on building costs.  He confirmed that $50 per sf was reasonable and the total cost was estimated at $1,598,100.  The finished building had a gross floor area of 82,000 sf; net gallery area 26,700 sf; sculpture court 3,100 sf, storage area 21,500 sf, office space 12,200 sf.

Dates: Commission / Completion:commission or competition date: June 5, 1963 (e), start of site work: October 20, 1964. completion/inauguration: September 28, 1966.
Architectural and other Designer(s): Architect(s): Marcel Breuer and Hamilton P. Smith, Michael Irving, consulting architect Consulting engineer(s): Paul Weidlinger, structural engineer,  Werner, Jensen & Kurst, mechanical engineers, (Stanley & McLandless initially) Edison Price, lighting consultants Building contractor(s): HRH Construction Company
Others associated with Building/Site:
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s): Event(s):Whitney Biennial (a showcase for emerging artists) Period: The Biennial has been held at the museum every two years since the late 1960’s. Type of change: renovation: Lobby renovation. Renovation and expansion of the museum into neighboring buildings. Date(s): Lobby: 1994. Expansion: circa 1994-1998.  33 East 74th Street purchased in 1994 for $3.4 million.  Gluckman hired in 1994 to study expansion.  Work completed in March 1998. circumstances/reasons for change: Need for additional gallery/exhibition space, offices, and library, ADA compliance for public spaces including restrooms. Effects of changes: The lobby was reconfigured with the addition of a new admissions desk, expanded coat check room, and new moveable furniture for the book store at a cost of $500,000. The expansion was announced in 1995 and budgeted at $13.5 million.  It added approximately 13,000 sf of exhibition space to the museum.  Breuer’s original building anticipated expansion into adjoining sites to the south with the inclusion of break-through panels in the concrete wall on the south.  The museum is now connected to the buildings located at 943 Madision Avenue and 33 East 74th Street.  The fifth floor was converted into gallery space and the offices previously located there were moved into 33 East 74th Street.  The terraces located on the north and west sides of the floor were enclosed to provide additional gallery space.  These changes added 30% more exhibition space.  Skylights were installed.  The fourth floor mezzanine library was converted into gallery space.   Mechanical systems were moved to a new enclosure on the roof.  The other galleries were refurbished.  Paint was removed from the stone floors and stone base trim was restored.  Each of the more than 1,400 quarter-ton granite slabs on the building’s façade was removed, cleaned at a facility in Queens and replaced using new anchors. A banner sign was added outside the front entrance.-- Revamping the Whitney, Metropolis 1998 Feb.-Mar., v.17, n.6, p.50.--Let the Sun Shine In, New York Magazine, April 6, 1998.--Expanding an icon, Architecture 1998 June, v.87, n.6, p.108-113. Persons/organizations involved: Architects:  Gluckman Mayner Architects (Richard Gluckman and David Mayner, principles-charge; Martin Marciano, project architect; David Adler, Mark Fiedler, Patrick O’Brien, project team). Engineers:  Ove Arup & Partners (structural, mechanical, electrical).Consultants:  2 X 4 (signage). General Contractors:  AJ Contracting; York Hunter Services. Outdoor Signage:  Pentagram
Current Use: Of whole building/site: Museum with associated archive, library and administrative offices.  The building also contains a restaurant and gift shop.  Various spaces are used for special events. Of principal component: The main volume is primarily exhibition space along with restaurant and gift shops.  The connected townhouses and new construction primarily contain library/archives and administrative offices.
Current Condition: Of whole building/site: Good Of principal components: Good.  The each granite panel on the façade was taken down and cleaned during the 1998 renovation. Comments: Although the building is in good condition, having been renovated in 1998, the Whitney does feel a need for additional space, as evidenced by the numerous schemes for expansion since the late 1970’s.
General Description:

The main volume of the building is approximately 81 feet wide, 125 feet deep and 97 feet high.  The building is stepped away at and below grade, creating a void approximately 28 feet wide and 11 feet deep between the sidewalk and the building that is crossed by an entry bridge.  The building progressively moves back towards the street in three steps as it rises.  Breuer described it as an inverted ziggurat.  Next to the main volume on the south side is a smaller secondary volume, approximately 12 feet wide and 97 feet high, the upper portion of which slopes back away from street.  It contains the main stair as well as space for the museum’s restoration service.  This secondary volume is made of exposed concrete. The building is constructed primarily of concrete and clad with granite panels.  Split slate flooring is used throughout large portions of the building. Precast concrete coffers are hung above the second, third, and fourth floor galleries. An array of circular light fixtures hangs above the lobby.  The main façade, which faces west along Madison Avenue, has one large trapezoidal window which protrudes from the building at approximately 20 degrees.  The north façade has six smaller windows which have a shape similar to the large window. The building is set off from the townhouses on the block by two thick concrete walls, one on south side of the building and the other on the east side.  The south wall has “break though” panels which allow the main building to be connected to adjacent buildings on the block. The building has two floors below grade.  The lowest is primarily used for storage and service.  The next floor up contains a restaurant, gift shop and public restrooms.  The ground floor primarily contains a lobby.  The second, third, fourth and fifth floors are primarily gallery space.  Most of the space with was added (connected) to the museum by Gluckman Mayner Architects is contain in buildings that have maintained their townhouse appearance.  However, a tall masonry building was constructed behind the building at 33 East 74th Street at that time to provide a physical connection between it and the main building.  This new construction has a minimal presence from the street.

Construction Period:
Original Physical Context:

Name(s) of surrounding area/building(s): The Whitney is located within walking distance of the “Museum Mile” section of 5th Avenue including:  El Museo del Barrio at 104th Street; Museum of the City of New York at 103rd Street; Jewish Museum at 92nd Street; Cooper-Hewitt National Museum of Design at 91st Street; National Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts at 89th Street; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum at 88th Street; Metropolitan Museum of Art from 82nd to 86th Streets; Goethe House German Cultural Center at 82nd Street.
Visual relations: Many have noted the similarity between Breuer’s Whitney and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim as both share the rough form of an inverted ziggurat.
Functional relations:The Whitney was expanded into the building located at 33 East 74th Street as well new construction between the two buildings in 1998.  The annex includes a library, archives and offices.  The building at 943 Madison Avenue contains storage and administrative space for the museum and previously contained the museum’s “Store Next Door,” The museum also operates the “Whitney Museum of American Art at Altria” which is located at 120 Park Avenue at 42nd Street, New York, New York 10017.

Evaluation
Technical Evaluation:

A comprehensive architect’s report detailing the design was prepared in November 1963.  It notes that the north and south wall was reinforced concrete bearing walls.  The east and west walls act has deep concrete trusses that span the 81 feet between the bearing walls.  The precast concrete coffers, arrayed in a two foot by two foot grid provide power and lighting over the galleries.  The ceilings are 12 feet 9 inches above the 2nd and 3rd floor galleries and 17 feet 6 inches above the 4th floor gallery.

Social:

The design of the museum was in part a response to the state of modern art at the time.  Breuer purposely minimized the use of windows to better showcase the work within.  The galleries can accommodate the large sculptures that were emerging at the time.

Cultural & Aesthetic:
Public and critical response to the building has been mixed.  The void in front of the museum as well as the walls on the south and east sides of the building have been considered hostile to the urban environment.  Moreover, the visual solidity of the building’s mass has proved inscrutable to many.  However, these same tactics allow the building to define a space for its remarkable form within a dense urban framework.  At the same it, it allows patrons to view works of art with a sense of remove from the distractions of the city. Instituitionally, the Whitney has come to be so deeply associated with its building. Canonical status: Built at a time when transparent high modernist buildings were very much in vogue, Breuer’s brutalist design distinguished itself with its primitive opacity.  There are few works of this style left in the city.  The only one other works by Breuer in New York City are at Bronx Community College.
Historical:
General Assessment:
Breuer’s use of the south and east walls to set off the building and define the block’s corner continues to be a source of inspiration to modern architects.  Notably, Zaha Hadid used a similar strategy in her design for the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati.
Documentation
Text references:

Whitney Museum of American Art Archives, Frances Mulhall Achilles Library
33 East 74th St., New York, NY 10021
The “finding aid” from the Whitney Archives lists the following documents related to the original construction: Whitney Museum of American Art Archives
Properties, 19XX-19XX, n.d.
Folder Contents Dates Box 1 945 Madison Avenue
10 Correspondence 
General, 1962-69; Marcel Breuer and Associates, 1963-68; Building Committee, 1963-67; Construction, 1964-69, n.d.; Dunnington, Bartholow & Miller, 1963;
B.H. Friedman, 1963-67; HRH Construction, 1964-66; Michael Irving, 1963-68; Property, 1962-63; Correspondence and Reports, Wood and Tower, 1964-66, n.d.;
4 Correspondence and Memoranda,  Cafeteria and Friends Lounge, 1964-66; Mock-up, 1964; Stationary and Architectural Graphics, 1965-68; US Plywood Corporation, 1965-66; 2 Memoranda General, 1963-68, n.d.; Building Committee,1963-71; n.d., Property Offers, 1963; n.d., Architect’s Report, 1963; Contractor Bids, 1964; Furnishings, 1966; n.d.Building Information, 1978-81.
Box 2, 3, A Program for the New Whitney Museum; Correspondence and Notes, 1964-65; n.d., Newsletters and Brochures, 1964-66; In the Service of American Art, n.d., 2 Membership Applications, Correspondence and Memoranda, 965-66, n.d.; WMAA & Other Museums, 1966-67, n.d.; Cornerstone Ceremony, 1964; 10 Opening Correspondence, 1966; Correspondence – Congratulations, 1966; Memoranda, 1966; Schedule- Meeting Minutes, n.d.; Dedication,  1966; Invitation Lists, 1966, n.d.; Dinner Parties, 1966, n.d.; RSVPs, 1966; Invitations and Tickets, 1966; Placecards, n.d.; Outside Group Parties, 1966; Preliminary Announcement and Report, 1963, n.d.; Press Releases, 1963, 1964; 7 Press Clippings, 1956-Aug. 1966, 1956-66, Sept.-Oct. 1966, 1966, Nov. 1966-Feb. 1986, 1966-86; Jacqueline Kennedy’s visit to construction site  1965; The New Yorker, 1966, n.d.;
General,1963-66;General, Publicity, 1966, n.d.; Breuer correspondence, 1963-66; Reviews; n.d.; Note: Building photographs are in Photo archives
5. 2 principal publications (in chronological order):
Breuer’s Whitney An Anniversary Exhibition, New York, 1996.; Ezra Stoller, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 2000.; Whitney Museum Finds a New Home, New York Times, June18, 1963.; Plans Shown for New Building for Whitney Museum, New York Times, December 12, 1963.; Cornerstone of New Whitney Museum Laid, New York Times, October 21, 1964.; Madison Avenue Now Has a New Castle, New York Times, July 23, 1966.; Whitney Museum Holds a Preview, New York Times, September 8, 1966.; Harsh and Handsome, Ada Louise Huxtable, New York Times, September 8, 1966; Whitney Museum has Gala Opening, New York Times, September 28, 1966.; Art:  The Whitney Museum Shows What it Can Do … In the Right Building, New York Times, October 2, 1966.; Norman Foster (proposed addition, unbuilt); Whitney Museum of American Art extension, 1979, Architectural record 1979 Mid-Aug., v.166, n.3, p.54-55.; Michael Graves (proposed addition, unbuilt); Paul Spencer Byard, The Architecture of Additions, New York, p.151-53, 1998.; Michael Graves tackles the Whitney, Roger Kimball, Architectural record 1985 Oct., v.173, no.12, p.113,115.; Growing pains, Metropolis 1987 May, v.6, no.9, p.22-23.; Third time's a charm, maybe?, Architectural record 1989 Mar., v.177, no.3, p.43.; An Appraisal; A Daring and Sensitive Design, Paul Goldberger, New York Times, May 22, 1985.; Whitney Addition Planned, New York Times, May 22, 1985.; Architecture View; For the Whitney, Adding Less May Result in More, Paul Goldberger, New York Times, August 11, 1985.; Neighbors Criticize Plan to Expland Whitney, New York Times, November 14, 1985.; Expansion at the Whitney:  The Debate Broadens, New York Times, November 26, 1985.; The Whitney Unveils Smaller Expansion Plan, New York Times, March 11, 1987.; Architecture View; Adding a Little Less to the Whitney, New York Times, March 15, 1987.; Whitney Expansion Raises Preservation Issue, New York Times, May 24, 1987.; Whitney Proposal Wins Backing of Local Board, New York Times, June 19, 1987; Review/Architecture;  3d Try on an Expansion Design for the Whitney, New York Times, December 20, 1988.; Architecture View;  The Whitney Paradox:  To Add is to Subtract, New York Times, January 8, 1989.; Considering the Once and Future Whitney, New York Times, November 17, 1996.; Richard Gluckman (addition built 1998); Revamping the Whitney, Philip Nobel, Metropolis 1998 Feb.-Mar., v.17, n.6, p.50.; Let the Sun Shine In, New York Magazine, April 6, 1998.; Expanding an icon, Allan Schwartzman,  Architecture 1998 June, v.87, n.6, p.108-113.; Inside Art, New York Times, August 5, 1994..; Postings:  Project Leaves the Exterior Unchanged; Whitney Planning $13.5 Million Expansion, New York Times, August 20, 1995.; Inside Art, New York Times, September 20, 1995.; Art Review; Whitney Whittles Intimate Corners, New York Times, April 3, 1998.; OMA (proposed addition, unbuilt) Newhitney - scheme A, A + U: architecture and urbanism 2003 Nov., n.11(398), p.9-74.; Newhitney - scheme B, A + U: architecture and urbanism 2003 Nov., n.11(398), p.75-98.; Inside Art, New York Times, February 16, 2001.; Whitney Scraps Expansion Plans, New York Times, April 15, 2003.; Whitney Museum Cancels Koolhaas-Designed Expansion, Architectural Record, April 16, 2003.; Renzo Piano Building Workshop (proposed addition, unbuilt); Renzo Piano chosen to design Whitney Museum expansion, Sam Lubell, Architectural record 2004 July, v.192, n.7, p.21.; Whitney Museum unveils model for its expansion, Sam Lubell, Architectural record 2004 Dec., v.192, n.12, p.32.; Once Again, the Whitney is Planning to Expand, New York Times, May 19, 2004.; Whitney Hires Renzo Piano to Design its Expansion, New York Times, June 16, 2004.; Piano to Design Whitney Museum Expansion, Architectural Record, June 16, 2004.; Whitney’s New Plan:  A Respectful Approach, New York Times, November 9, 2004.; Whitney Museum Unveils Models of Renzo Piano’s Museum Expansion, Architectural Record, November 12, 2004.; Whitney’s Expansion Plan Concerns Preservationists, Architectural Record, February 14, 2005.; Whitney Wants Plan A, but Says it Has Plan B, New York Times, May 24, 2005.; Modified Whitney Expansion Plan Wins Approval, Architectural Record, May 25, 2005.; Arts, Briefly; Green Light for Whitney Expansion, New York Times, January 13, 2006.; Whitney Museum May Move Expansion to Downtown Site, New York Times, October 31, 2006.; Architecture; Uptown or Down?  The Whitney’s Identity Crisis, New York Times, November 2, 2006.; Whitney Museum Considers Nixing Piano Expansion, Architectural Record, November 22, 2006.; Whitney’s Expansion Plans are Shifting South, to the Meatpacking District, New York Times, November 28, 2006.; Whitney Inks Conditional Deal for the High Line, Architectural Record, November 28, 2006.

Authoring
Recorder/Date: name of reporter: Paul H. Yoo

Pirelli Tire Building

Added by Lindsey Schweinberg, last update: August 17, 2012, 12:31 pm

Pirelli Tire Building
Location
500 Sargent Drive
New Haven, CT
United States
41° 17' 46.3776" N, 72° 55' 4.5048" W
Identity of Building / Site
Primary classification: Industrial (IND)
Secondary classification:
Federal, State, or Local Designation(s) and Date(s):
History of Building/Site
Original Brief:

commission brief:

In 1966, VP Joseph Stewart approached New Haven mayor, Richard Lee, about purchasing what was viewed as a “pivotal” piece of land in the Long Wharf Redevelopment Area. The site, as it occupied an important tract of land at the intersection of Interstates 91 and 95, would mark the gateway to New Haven. Thus, Mayor Lee was much concerned over the choice of architect. He insisted that anything built on the site should have an architectural presence and be built by a master.

The Armstrong Rubber Company’s program requirements were as follows: two or three floors of administrative office space, assumed by Armstrong Rubber Co. to be placed near the turnpike, and a one or two story high-ceiling space for the research and development laboratories to be relocated to New Haven from West Haven.

design brief:

Armstrong Rubber Co. initially anticipated two or three floors of administrative space at the front of the site and a research and development structure of one to two story to be located at the rear, as the testing of tires to the point of destruction made a noticeable amount of noise. That the site selected lay below the roadbed grade posed a design dilemma, as this would render the originally low building plan unimposing to passing vehicular traffic. Mayor Lee suggested that the building be constructed as a 10-18 story tower – Armstrong Rubber Co. disagreed. Marcel Breuer, architect, proposed a two-story research and development structure at grade with administrative offices “hanging” above, leaving a 2-story gap. The client viewed the commission of the building as their way back into the public eye. The only point in the design process during which Armstrong Rubber Co. requested a design change from Breuer was in regards to the tower’s height. Breuer willingly conceded. Though some supporters of Breuer may have urged for more reluctance on his part to compromise his vision, others attribute his ease to his recognition of Mr. Stewart’s responsibility to shareholders, in maintaining minimal costs. Considering this within the framework of Modern architecture, Breuer’s response seems actually appropriate, as the Modernist architect was driven by careful functional analysis and demanded efficiency in structure as well as affordability in creation. The completing feature of the building, the sign, reveals a moment of teamwork between City Planning officials and the Breuer design team. Breuer’s design initially called for a three story stand-alone sign – a rooftop sign was never planned, as this would damage the buildings distinctive silhouette. However, a sign of this scale was against signage ordinance. By including a small storage space at the sign’s base, the “sign” could be deemed a “gardening shed” and thus a structure, able to be built to any height desired.

Dates: Commission / Completion:commission date: 1968, start of site work: March 1968, completion: August 1970
Architectural and other Designer(s): architect: Marcel Breuer
Others associated with Building/Site: name(s): Richard Lee association: Mayor of New Haven, CT, at time of site acquisition - Responsible for securing site for building and promoting the building as a billboard for Renewal-period New Haven. Mayor, 1954-1969; site selection, 1969 name(s): John DeStefano association: Mayor of New Haven, CT - Debated with IKEA planners on the benefits of retaining as much of original building structure as possible during planning of new big box store. As a result IKEA reduced the scope of demolition, leaving the tower portion. Mayor, 1994-present.
Significant Alteration(s) with Date(s): type of change: Demolition of the research and development wing, as well as the warehouse, portion projecting beyond the “hanging” offices date(s): April 8, 2003 circumstances/reasons for change: Land purchased by IKEA and slated for demolition to make way for an expansive parking lot effects of changes: IKEA’s original plans required the complete destruction of the building. Second drafting suggested the entire 2 story plinth on which the tower stands, along with the entire research and development and warehouse spaces, to be demolished, leaving the tower floating no longer only two stories but four. As a result of intense debate and, finally, reluctant compromise, the decision was made to demolish only that portion of the plinth which projects beyond the hanging office tower. This drastic shortening undoubtedly throws the entire building composition off balance, as Breuer intended for this asymmetrical pairing of the tower and research and development element as complementary, one to the other. persons/organizations involved: IKEA Corporation, New England Development of Newton, MA (developer), Mayor DeStefano, City of New Haven Department of City Planning, numerous architectural advocacy groups, including: the Connecticut AIA, the Alliance for Architecture, the Urban Design League, the Long Wharf Advocacy Group, and the Arts Council of Greater New Haven.
Current Use: The Armstrong Rubber Co. /Pirelli building is currently vacant.
Current Condition: The building, though vacant, seems to be in fine condition, though a personal inspection has not been conducted.
General Description:

The Armstrong Rubber Co. /Pirelli Tire building is a fantastic embodiment of the design ideals held by a master Modernist architect, Marcel Breuer. The entire building is a composite of steel structure for the 4-story tower and long-span concrete T-beams for the two-story high-ceiling test area. Between these two parts of the building is a 2-story gap, giving the tower portion the illusion of suspension. Enveloping the entire building are pre-cast concrete panels of varying scale and design, depending on the function they enclose. Breuer preferred concrete as a building material, as he viewed it as universal – it serves both architectural and structural functions of the building. The pre-cast concrete panels are modeled in a form which Breuer termed crystalline. This form provided protection from the sun (a Breuer preoccupation) and gave the façade a tremendous physicality and depth. The end result is a continually changing impression of the building, depending on the day, the season and the weather.

Construction Period:

building/construction: Breuer exploited concrete’s ability to be cast into an endless variation of forms. Because of this, one material could fulfill the needs of structure and aesthetics. The concrete panels, which were pre-cast, were made of white cement with a dark aggregate that was exposed via light sandblasting.

Original Physical Context:

The original setting for the Armstrong Rubber Co. /Pirelli Tire building was an expansive greensward. In being provided this space, the building was set apart as a sculptural work in addition to a functioning building.

Evaluation
Technical Evaluation:

The Armstrong Rubber Co. /Pirelli Tire building exemplifies Breuer’s employment of concrete as both a structural and an architecturally aesthetic material. Whereas steel is structural and must be then covered for beautification, Breuer recognizes the sculptural ability of concrete and utilized this capacity to move his buildings beyond the role of mere containers for human activity to seemingly living creatures themselves. The façade has a tremendous physicality and strength, thanks to the deeply molded panels. Most technically astonishing is Breuer’s decision to suspend the office tower above the research and development wing. One can read through the concrete the massive trusses used to carry this load at the attic story of the tower.

Social:

The Armstrong Rubber Co. /Pirelli Tire building was intended to act as a beacon for the town of New Haven. To achieve this, the city was cognizant of the need for an architect on the forefront of architectural practice – Modernism was the style du jour. Breuer designed the Armstrong Rubber Co. /Pirelli Tire building to mark the entrance into the city and announce New Haven’s rebirth as a city of culture.

Cultural & Aesthetic:
Developed in the 1950s, the Armstrong Rubber Co./Pirelli Tire building exemplifies what Breuer deemed an emerging new depth of façade. By simply molding the pre-cast panels, common to the Modern movement, an architect could exploit the play of light and allow sun and shadow to define a building’s architectural expression. Breuer termed the resulting form a crystalline structure. This concept of an organic but strictly scientific reproducing of similar forms was possible because of Breuer’s abiding faith in standardization.
Historical:

In the tradition of masterful artistic works, the Armstrong Rubber Co./Pirelli Tire building has become more increasingly appreciated as a result of its well publicized impending demise. Many recognize now how typical of the Modern movement Breuer’s building is – its affinity for standardization, its construction in concrete, its minimalist ornamentation, its compositional massing. While typical, however, it is also, individually, exquisitely successful.
Unfortunately, the building was allowed to become the poster child for last-minute advocacy. Modern architecture is, seemingly by the day, losing major contributions to the movement; the Armstrong Rubber Co./Pirelli Tire building escaped in an amputated state. Its story has thus become a lesson in advocating for Modern architecture.

General Assessment:
Breuer’s design fits neatly into the cadre of Modern architecture. Furthermore, it is referential of his own work worldwide, and in doing this significant of the adaptability of the style to various landscapes and client needs. Breuer’s works for IBM, both at La Gaude, France (1961), and in Boca Raton, Florida (1977), exhibit the same crystalline structure. One of his most heralded projects, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development building in Washington, D.C., (1963-68) showed the applicability of the form in not only the world of science, a discipline Breuer saw directly aligned with art and architecture, but also those social and political realms of culture. The State University of New York at Buffalo’s Furnas Hall (1977) employs the aesthetic and construction type in the world of education. Together, these buildings (a select few in his larger portfolio of works) illustrate his belief in and contributions to the Modern movement. Not only did he begin his studies at the famed Bauhaus school, but he continued on as a teacher, embracing and promoting the idea of unity between art and technology. These structures also show his tendency towards Brutalist aesthetics. Other Bauhaus legends, such as Mies van der Rohe, may have favored the rectilinear glass and steel box, such as the Seagram Building (1954-1958), but Breuer returned time and again to his crystalline aesthetic, more often than not realized in concrete. His buildings project and are at moments distorted in order to achieve the architect’s intended play of light and shadow.
Documentation
Text references:

Bibliographical references:
“Around the State: New Haven.” Preservation News. May/June 2003: 6, 15.
Breuer . 2001. St. John’s Abbey and University. Feb. 2007. (http://www.marcelbreuer.org/)
Brown, Bay. “IKEA vs. Breuer.” Architecture, 91.12 (2002): 14.
Marcel Breuer: A Memoir. (New York : Monacelli Press, 2000).
Hawthorne, Christopher. “Disposable Architecture: Ignoring its Modernist lineage, IKEA seeks to dismantle a classic Marcel
Breuer building.” Metropolis. 22.6 (2003): 44.<
Hughes, C.J. “As a Business Sets Up, A Group Takes Steps to Preserve a Landmark.” The New York Times 26 Jan. 2003, late ed: 14C.
Hyman, Isabelle. Marcel Breuer, Architect: The Career and the Buildings. (New York : H.N. Abrams, 2001).
Lerner, Kevin. “IKEA Plans to Tear Down a Significant Portion of New Haven Breuer Building for Parking.” Architectural Record 191.1 (2003): 38.
“Modern Buildings in the News: New Haven.” Connecticut. Preservation News. Jan/Feb 1999: 5.
Narracci, Robert. “Advocacy Updates: Connecticut: Pirelli Building (Armstrong Rubber) Demo of Horizontal Section Underway.” DOCOMOMO-US Newsletter. Summer 2003: 4.
“The Emergence of Modernism, 1940-1973: Social Agenda or the Latest Aesthetic?” American Architecture: A History, (Boulder: Icon Editions, Westview Press, 2001).
“Things Finally Gelling for Pirelli.” Tire Business 20.26 (2003): 8.
Von Vegesack, Alexander and Mathias Remmele. Marcel Breuer: Design and Architecture. (Weil am Rhein: Vitra Design Museum, c2003).

Authoring
Recorder/Date: name of reporter: Cristiana Peña address: 49 St. Nicholas Terrace #36 email: cap2148@columbia.edu
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Pirelli Tire Building
Pirelli Tire Building
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