Marcel Breuer

1902 (Pécs, Hungary) – 1981 (New York)

Breuer was one of the key modernist architects, and a highly influential furniture designer. In Hungary he belonged to a circle with strong links to van Doesburg and de Stijl. Gropius became his mentor, friend and colleague first at the Bauhaus, and later in the U.S. Moholy taught with him, and briefly lived in the same London block. He met Corbusier in Paris, designed an apartment building for Giedion in Zürich, and named a chair after his colleague Kandinsky. He was friends with Calder, taught Johnson and Pei, collaborated with Nervi, and redesigned Piscator’s apartment in modern style (complete with punchbag).

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

1886 (Aachen, Germany) – 1969 (Chicago)

Mies was one of the seminal modernist architects; his buildings possess superb proportion and an influential stripped-down aesthetic (echoed in his pithy aphorisms). His first job was with Paul; he then met Gropius, and probably Corbusier, as fellow-apprentices under Behrens. Lissitzky was a close friend and collaborator on the progressive design-journal ‘G’, along with Richter and Schwitters. Gropius, Kandinsky and Albers were Bauhaus colleagues. Aalto, Siskind and Callahan were friends, van Doesburg warmly so. An afternoon with Wright became four days. In the U.S., Johnson was a great supporter, and Beckmann, Gabo and Pevsner expatriate drinking companions.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe knew…

Alexander Nasmyth

Alexander Naismith

1758 (Edinburgh) – 1840 (Edinburgh)

A noted portrait and landscape painter, Nasmyth also invented the bow-and-string arch and compression riveting. As a 16-year-old he was spotted by Ramsay and went to London as his apprentice (reproducing Ramsay’s royal portraits). He and his great friend and walking companion Burns were among the group on board the first-ever steam-driven boat. Raeburn was a close friend, Playfair another fellow-walker, Brewster a regular evening visitor, and Somerville among his many female students. He was visited by the elderly Watt, had illustrations commissioned by Scott, and collaborated on some bridges with Telford

Robert Adam

1728 (Kirkcaldy, Scotland) – 1792 (London)

While not a complete architectural original, Adam had a great influence not only on British neoclassicism, but from Russia to the U.S. Dominant in his brothers’ partnership, he was a member of Smith’s weekly dining club in Edinburgh, travelled in Italy with Ramsay, befriended and learned from Piranesi, designed his friend Hume’s tomb, and commissioned Kauffman and her husband to paint decorative features. Walpole and Garrick commissioned work from him, while he himself hired the young stonemason Telford. Boulton proudly told him how he was training up “plain country lads” instead of employing established (but awkward) craftsmen.

Eugène Viollet-le-Duc

1814 (Paris) – 1879 (Lausanne, Switzerland)

Viollet, best known for his sometimes controversial restorations, was separately a highly influential architectural theorist, strongly informing the ideas of Gaudí, Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. Sainte-Beuve knew him as a teenager, as did Stendhal, visitors to his mother’s salon. Viollet and Mérimée also first met this way. Mérimée put many commissions in Viollet’s hands; together they became responsible for saving significant parts of France’s architectural heritage. Bartholdi, one of Viollet’s former students, sought his advice on the structure of the Statue of Liberty (the repoussé copper skin was his suggestion).

Eugène Viollet-le-Duc knew…

David Gilly

1748 (Schwedt an der Oder, Prussia, now Germany) – 1808 (Berlin)

Langhans and David Gilly were both persuaded to move to Berlin around the same time, and together oversaw the development of a distinct Prussian school of architecture, with Langhans becoming a friend as well as close colleague. Gilly taught many students, including his son Friedrich, Klenze and — most notably — Schinkel (who as a student and as Friedrich Gilly’s close friend) lived in the Gilly household. The architectural academy that Gilly — an enlightened and influential teacher — started was as significant as the journals he also founded.

Carl Gotthard Langhans

1732 (Landeshut, Silesia, now Kamienna Góra, Poland) – 1808 (Breslau, Silesia, now Wrocław, Poland)

Langhans and David Gilly (to become friends as well as colleagues) moved to Berlin within a year of one another, persuaded by the Prussian king following successful careers elsewhere. Together they were responsible for initiating a distinct Prussian school of architecture, founded in neo-classicism, though unafraid later to embrace gothic influences. David Gilly’s son Friedrich was one of the students at the academy that Langhans and he set up: Langhans also joined the younger Gilly and others, including Schinkel and Gentz, in a dynamic group who met to discuss and advance their architectural ideas.

Friedrich Gilly

1772 (Stettin, Prussia, now Szczecin, Poland) – 1800 (Karlsbad, Bohemia, now Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic)

Gilly’s theorising made him the effective leader of those, notably Schinkel, who founded Berlin’s architectural tradition; Gilly himself, dying young, built very little. His father David Gilly taught him from youth, with Langhans another of his teachers. He took Schinkel under his wing when the 16-year-old came to live in the Gillys’ house, becoming Schinkel’s close friend and mentor. These two, with Gentz and Langhans, formed an influential group of progressive architects (consciously looking to the model of Plato’s Academy). Gilly was highly charismatic; Wackenrode was suitably awed, describing him as god-like.

Heinrich Gentz

1766 (Breslau, Silesia, now Wrocław, Poland) – 1811 (Berlin)

Carstens was one of his teachers. Gentz’s friend David Gilly, his son Friedrich and Langhans, were colleagues who together with Gentz taught Schinkel (who later collaborated with Gentz). With Friedrich Gilly, Gentz formed the ‘Private Society of Young Architects’, an influential group who debated ideas and critiqued one anothers’ work; Schinkel was another member. Gentz worked with Humboldt on the setting-up of Berlin University, and (closely) with Goethe on a theatre and a palace, bringing an uncluttered simplicity in place of rococo flamboyance; he also got to know Wieland and Schiller in Weimar.

Le Corbusier

Pierre-Édouard Jeanneret

1887 (La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland) – 1965 (Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France)

Behrens employed him (and his friends Mies van der Rohe and Gropius) as a young man. Hoffmann, Moser and Klimt were all met around the same time on a visit to Vienna. Braque, Picasso, Lipchitz, Gris and Léger were among artist friends and acquaintances in Paris after WWI. Ozenfant and he started a post-cubist artistic movement together. He met Meyerhold and Eisenstein on a trip to Moscow, and Baker on a voyage to Rio. Perriand worked in his studio designing furniture. He travelled across Spain with Léger, collaborated on a building with Sert, and on an electronic poem with Varèse.