ANNOUNCEMENT: Marcel Breuer’s House in the Museum Garden

From the Rockefeller Brothers Fund--

In 1948, Marcel Breuer was commissioned to do an exhibition building for the Museum of Modern Art as part of a series of exhibition buildings to be displayed in their garden. The House in the Museum Garden was Breuer’s vision of how the average American family could live in a well designed, modern, expandable, and affordable home. His design, which was seen by thousands while on display, influenced modern residential architecture with its use of glass, wood and natural stone, its use of distinct activity zones to define the interior and exterior spaces and the motion and flow of space.

At the close of the six month exhibit, the house, which had been slated for demolition, was instead purchased by John D. Rockefeller Jr. Mr. Rockefeller had it cut into four sections and driven upstate to his family estate in Pocantico Hills, where it was reassembled as a guest house. Since 1950 the house has been used by various family members, but on January first of this year, ownership of the house transferred out of family hands to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which has been managing the other portions of the estate under a lease agreement with the National Trust since 1991, has taken on the stewardship of the Breuer House.

In 1994 the Rockefeller Brothers Fund opened the Pocantico Conference Center at the Rockefeller estate to complement and extend the impact of the Fund’s grantmaking programs. It is expected that the Breuer House will have a limited function for small meetings and as guest accommodations. As of now there is no plan for public visitation to the house but it will be open for special tours from time to time for educational purposes. The house was recently toured by a group of students from Columbia University who are studying the topic of architectural exhibitions.

Since January our efforts have been focused on restoring the house to be the House in the Museum Garden. The house as seen in the exhibit embodied many of the hallmarks of Breuer’s International Style design and was an influential piece of modern architectural history. Therefore, it is our goal to restore the house as closely to Breuer’s original design intent as possible. When it was moved certain changes were made that did not adhere to Breuer’s architectural concept. While the basic design elements remain intact, such changes as enclosing the kitchen, enlarging the garage, removing the stone floor and regularizing the stone fireplace detract from the architect’s design. So far we have been successful in restoring the kitchen enclosure, installing missing cypress wall boarding in the living room, and re-installing Carrara glass tile in the master bathroom. Our current projects include repainting the interior to Breuer’s original color scheme, replacing the vinyl replacement windows with refurbished steel windows based on the one remaining steel window in the house, and equipping the house with the correct furniture, some of which are still in production.

It has been an exhilarating and challenging few months working with this house, discovering Breuer’s original intentions, and trying to find our way through this complex process. We hope that Marcel Breuer’s House in the Museum Garden will be an important and influential addition to the National Trust’s ever-expanding collection of significant modernist buildings.

 

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