Breuer’s Bohemia, a new feature-length documentary by the multi-faceted American film director James Crump, explores a particularly vibrant period of mid-century architecture featuring the experimental residential designs of Hungarian architect, Marcel Breuer in the New England region.
Crump, who is also a writer, producer, art historian and curator, tells the story of Breuer through a series of revolutionary designs of private homes created in the conservative post-war period for his circle of friends – a fascinating community of Utopian dreamers mostly comprising left-wing intellectuals and prominent cultural figures of the time. Though best-known for his brutalist design of New York City’s Whitney Museum of American Art completed in 1966, Breuer’s work during the McCarthy era in the early 1950s to the radical Vietnam war years and free love of the late 1960s didn’t quite get the attention it deserved.
According to the film’s website Breuer’s Bohemia, Breuer and his assertive patrons challenged New England tradition with a plan to build or influence the building of houses, schools, factories and libraries that represented the modern liberal reformist future they collectively envisioned.
The film also depicts Breuer as a champion of diversity and inclusivity; as his firm grew and went global, the architect hired several women, particularly those of colour including Beverly Loraine Greene, the first Black woman licensed to practise architecture in the US.
Utilising considerable research, interviews and archival footage, Crump offers an illuminating glimpse into a particularly potent chapter in twentieth century American architecture through the iconic houses designed by Breuer as well as stories of his collaborations with people who insisted on Breuer-designed homes.
The launch of the documentary on 14 September 2021 coincides with the release of Crump’s book, also titled Breuer’s Bohemia.
Image: Marcel and Connie Breuer (Pedro E. Guerrero Archive)