Department of Housing and Urban Development

Expressionistic in name and style.

Introduced by President John F. Kennedy and written by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a lifelong advocate for urban design excellence, the Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture promoted federal government architecture that would “reflect the dignity, enterprise, vigor and stability of the American National Government” and “embody the finest contemporary American architectural thought.” The Department of Housing and Urban Development Building, the first to be built according to the principles, also symbolized the values of a newly created cabinet-level department committed to addressing the urban decline caused by the wave of post-World War II suburbanization.

The HUD headquarters was designed by world-renowned architect Marcel Breuer and his associate Herbert Beckhard for a site in the Southwest urban renewal area that would show the federal government’s commitment to urban reinvestment. Breuer used concrete in bold and innovative ways to create an Expressionist building with a sweeping, curvilinear X-shaped form. This represents the first use of precast and cast-in-place concrete as the structural and finish material for a federal building, and it was also the first fully modular federal building.

The building was renamed in 1999 to honor Washington native Robert C. Weaver, who served as Lyndon Johnson’s HUD Secretary from 1966-68 and was the first African American member of a Presidential cabinet. The building was constructed from 1965 to 1968 and includes a 1990 plaza redesign by landscape architect Martha Schwartz. [source: DC Historic Sites. Note: the site refers to Marcel Breuer as a French Architect, whereas he was actually Hungarian]

It is -unsurprisingly- listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Washington, D.C.

March 23rd, 2019

Met Breuer

Edvard Munch always makes a strong impression but, in this case, the same can be said about the host building. This is Met Breuer, built in 1966 and named after its Brutalist architect Marcel Breuer, who designed it to house the Whitney Museum – and so it did until 2015, when the Whitney moved to its current location in downtown Manhattan, and this beautiful concrete ”inverted ziggurat” was leased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Artwork from “Delirious Art at the Limits of Reason 1950-1980”, an exhibition running in parallel to Edvard Munch’s “Between the Clock and the Bed”.



Cob II, 1977-80 by Nancy Grossman
Wood, leather, painted horn, lacquer, lead

13/3, 1981 by Sol LeWitt
Painted balsa wood

Beginning Study for Changes and Communication, 1978 by Alfred Jensen
Oil on canvas

Three Mirror Vortex, 1965 by Robert Smithson
Stainless steel, three mirrors

My Father Pledged Me a Sword, 1975, by Anselm Kiefer
Watercolour, gouache, coloured pencil and ballpoint pen on paper

Met Breuer, 945 Madison Avenue, Manhattan

December 28th, 2017

Seating Plan

In great Stijl.

1/ Gerrit Thomas Rietveld
Armchair, designed 1917
Made by Gerard van de Groenekan (1904-1994)
The Netherlands
Painted beechwood

It is rare for decorative arts objects to evoke an artistic movement, but this armchair, formerly owned by De Stijl architect J.J. Oud, has become an icon. It expresses De Stijl ideology through balanced application of colour and the arrangement of geometric elements. De Stijl artists shunned historicism and naturalism and sought new abstract forms to express the ideals of the future


Child’s Wheelbarrow, designed 1923, made 1958
Made by Gerard van de Groenekan, The Netherlands

This child’s wheelbarrow is based on a toy that Gerrit Rietveld made in 1923 for the son of J.J. P. Oud. It exemplifies the stylistic characteristics of De Stijl: composed of elemental geometric forms, painted in primary colours and made of inexpensive wood.

2/ Marcel Breuer
Side Chair, Model B5, ca. 1926, Germany
Armchair, Model b4, ca. 1927-28
Table, Model B19, ca. 1928
Chromium-plated tubular steel, white canvas (chairs), glass (table)

3/ Ettore Sottsass, Jr.
“Casablanca” Cabinet, designed 1981. Manufactured by Memphis. Milan.
Wood, plastic laminate


Carlo Mollino
Table, ca 1949. Made by F. Apelli and L. Varesio, Turin.
Laminated wood, glass, brass

Although it is functional, this table looks like a piece of sculpture. Its undulating curves were inspired by the work of Surrealist artists, in particular Jan Arp’s flowing lines and biomorphic shapes. The shape of the table top was based on the outlines of a woman’s torso. Mollino had traced it from a drawing by the Italian Surrealist Leonor Fini (1908-1996). In 1950 the table was included in a major exhibition of Italian design called Italy at Work: Her Renaissance in Design Today. The Italian government sent this travelling exhibition around America. {source}

Brooklyn Museum

July 22nd, 2017