23

THURSDAY

More than any other building in Southwest D.C., the snaking concrete form of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development headquarters, by Bauhaus émigré Marcel Breuer with Herbert Beckhard, gives the quadrant its very European atmosphere. After-the-war-liberal European, that is. Propped up on its stubby little piers, the building combines a charming mid-century anthropomorphism with a high order of leftist intellectual zeal—it started out as JFK’s idea. You find the same spirit in Breuer’s only other local federal building, the Hubert H. Humphrey Building, containing the Department of Health and Human Services, which—well, just consider the namesake, for instance, and you’ll begin to get the aspirations. Breuer’s buildings here in D.C. are far bigger than his reputation—for which there can be no excuse other than that hardly anybody spends enough time in Southwest—but Robert F. Gatje, who worked with Breuer for more than 20 years, can help fill in the blanks when he speaks and signs copies of his book, Marcel Breuer: A Memoir, tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the National Building Museum, 401 F St. NW. $14. (202) 272-2448. (Bradford McKee)