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In the 1940s, a group of five architects from Harvard inspired by the Bauhaus style of architecture settled in New Canaan, CT, where they would stir up an experimental modernist movement in the sleepy New England town.
One member of the Harvard Five, as they were called, was Marcel Breuer, who would become an internationally recognized architect. He built two homes in New Canaan. One of them, simply known as the Breuer House II, which is now on the market for $5.85 million, may have been the turning point for his career.
Breuer built the 4,777-square-foot house in 1951 for himself and his family. A blocky house made of fieldstone, it diverged from the first New Canaan home he built four years earlier, which the New York Times wrote "epitomized the light and tensile work of his early career."
The incorporation of fieldstone into Breuer House II may have been inspired by the old stone walls marking property lines still used in this area of Connecticut. The inspiration stuck. After building this home, Breuer's subsequent work became heavier and more sculptural; their "feeling switched to one of massiveness," wrote the Times.
By 1982, the property had seen several additions and renovations by Breuer's partner Herbet Beckhard. Preservationnation.org describes the original home as being "essentially gutted." Additions included a children's wing with attached glass corridor, swimming pool, and greenhouse.
These additions were removed or renovated by the current owners (and sellers), who saved the home from demolition in 2005. After spending $2.6 million to buy the home, the owners hired architect Toshiko Mori, also a Harvard architecture professor, to build a freestanding addition to the property.
The addition doubled the square footage of the original house and features a "staircase enclosed with glass of varying levels of transparency," according to Mori's website.
"The Breuer House II is a perfect example of how a Mid-Century Modern classic can be saved from the wrecker's ball and merged with the sensibility of one of the most important architects working today," says Michael Biondo, who photographed the property.
The architectural pedigree of this house is expected to fetch a higher price than other, similar-size homes in the area.
"The Breuer II house is an exceptional work by a master and commands a seven-figure premium over ordinary houses of the same vintage or size," says John Engel, a New Canaan agent. Engel isn't the listing agent for the Breuer II, but he has a deep understanding of historic properties in the area.
"It is estimated that over 90 true Mid-Century Moderns were built between 1946 and 1968, and about 50 have survived [in New Canaan]. And there are more modern examples that borrow from the clean lines of the Mid-Century aesthetic," says Engel. "There is an increasingly strong market for these homes driven in part by the aesthetic, in part by a resurgence in popular culture with shows like ' Mad Men.'"
The house is now four bedrooms and four full bathrooms, has a two-car garage, and features a heated pool surrounded by stone walls.
The home's interior features floor-to-ceiling walls of glass and stark-white walls that accentuate the angular, geometric floor plans.
"Breuer II is unusual in a couple of key ways," says Engel. "First, Marcel Breuer is one of the most important members of the Harvard Five, and he did only two houses in New Canaan. And he did this house for himself. Second, this house has been updated and expanded by a world-renowned architect in a tasteful way, consistent with the Breuer aesthetic."
Breuer's accomplishments are many. Born in Hungary, he began his career as a furniture designer and developed the "handlebar chair," later known as the Wassily Chair, which is still being replicated and imitated today.
His accomplishments include designing the Whitney Museum of America in New York City and the UNESCO headquarters in Paris. He was awarded the American Institute of Architects gold medal in 1968.
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