Avery Drawings & Archives Collections

Serge Chermayeff architectural records and papers, 1909-1980

Summary Information

At a Glance

Bib ID 3464750 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Chermayeff, Serge, 1900-1996; Mendelsohn, Erich, 1887-1953; José Luis Sert, 1902-1983; Sekler, Eduard F (Eduard Franz); Giedion, S. (Sigfried), 1888-1968; Chermayeff, Ivan; Fuller, R. Buckminster (Richard Buckminster), 1895-1983; Wurster, William Wilson; Kepes, Gyorgy, 1906-2001; Cutting, Hayward; Wachsmann, Konrad, 1901-1980; Gideonse, Harry David, 1901-1985; Breuer, Marcel, 1902-1981; Rudolph, Paul, 1918-1997; Blake, Peter, 1920-2006; Tzonis, Alexander; Plunz, Richard; Gropius, Walter, 1883-1969; Gropius, Ilse; Coates, Wells, 1895-1958; Church, Thomas Dolliver; Tyrwhitt, Jaqueline; Eckbo, Garrett; Born, Ernest, 1898-1992; Baldwin Kingrey (Firm); Dell & Wainwright; Ketchum, Gina & Sharp; Practical Equipment Ltd; Royal Institute of British Architects; International Congresses for Modern Architecture
Title Serge Chermayeff architectural records and papers, 1909-1980
Physical Description 17 linear feet of papers; 1508 photographs (1508 photographs); 915 drawings
Language(s) English .

This collection is available for use by appointment in the Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University. For further information and to make an appointment, please email avery-drawings@library.columbia.edu.



This material is arranged in fourteen series: Personal Papers; Correspondence; Project Records; Professional Papers; Faculty Papers, Académie Europeénne; Faculty Papers, Brooklyn College; Faculty Papers, Institute of Design; Faculty Papers, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Faculty Papers, Harvard University; Faculty Papers, Washington University; Faculty Papers, Yale University; "Community and Privacy"; "Shape of Community"; and "Design and the Public Good." The arrangement of materials within each series is described at the beginning of each series inventory.


Scope and Content

This collection contains materials related to Chermayeff's personal, professional, and academic lives, the bulk originating during his residency in the United States, beginning in the late 1930s. Project records document the full range of his work, including many records from his British period. The collection also contains extensive correspondence with personal friends, clients, and professional and academic colleagues.

The archive also contains significant papers and images related to publication of The Shape of Community, Community and Privacy, and Design and the Public Good, including manuscripts, images, and some production records.

Lastly, the collection contains a large number of reference files relating to architecture, design, urbanism, technology, sociology, anthropology, and current events, compiled throughout Chermayeff's professional life.

Abbreviations used in the item inventory: SC=Serge Chermayeff.

Using the Collection

Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library

Restrictions on Access

This collection is available for use by appointment in the Department of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University. For further information and to make an appointment, please email avery-drawings@library.columbia.edu.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Columbia University is providing access to the materials in the Library's collections solely for noncommercial educational and research purposes. The unauthorized use, including, but not limited to, publication of the materials without the prior written permission of Columbia University is strictly prohibited. All inquiries regarding permission to publish should be submitted in writing to the Director, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University. In addition to permission from Columbia University, permission of the copyright owner (if not Columbia University) and/or any holder of other rights (such as publicity and/or privacy rights) may also be required for reproduction, publication, distributions, and other uses. Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of any item and securing any necessary permissions rests with the persons desiring to publish the item. Columbia University makes no warranties as to the accuracy of the materials or their fitness for a particular purpose.

Preferred Citation

Serge Ivan Chermayeff architectural records and papers, 1909-1990. Located in the Dept. of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University.

Related Archival Materials

Associated Materials--A small collection of Richard Plunz's academic papers are also held by Avery Library's Drawings and Archives Department. For additional information, please consult the staff.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Source of acquisition--The bulk of this collection was a gift from Serge Ivan Chermayeff, through Richard Plunz, in 1978. A second gift, primarily of correspondence, was received at a later date. Additionally, a gift of professional and faculty papers was made by Mr. Plunz in 2005. Accession number--1000.036, 1000,037, 1975.008.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Annemarie van Roessel, Mellon Project Archivist, Dept. of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, in 2005.

Revision Description

2006-04-06 File created.

2009-12-08 File revised.

2019-05-20 EAD was imported spring 2019 as part of the ArchivesSpace Phase II migration.

2020-09-24 Added links to digitized material. kws

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
35mm (photographic film size) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architects Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architectural reprographic prints Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Carbon typescript papers Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Correspondence Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Film negatives Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Holograph papers Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Maps (documents) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Mixed media works Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Photographic prints Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Photographic transparencies Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Printing paper Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Sound recordings Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
VHS Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Video recordings (physical artifacts) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
typescripts Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID


Heading "CUL Archives:"
"CUL Collections:"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
Apartment houses -- United States -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architects -- Great Britain -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architects -- United States Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architects -- United States -- Correspondence Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture -- Great Britain -- History -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture -- India -- History -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture -- Massachusetts -- Cape Cod Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture -- Study and teaching Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Architecture -- United States -- History -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Bentley Wood (Sussex, England) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Brooklyn College Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Cape Cod National Seashore (Mass.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
City planning Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Country homes -- England Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
De La Warr Pavilion Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Dwellings -- England -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Dwellings -- Maine -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Dwellings -- United States -- 20th century Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Gilbey House (London, England) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Hamyln House (London, England) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Harvard University. Graduate School of Design Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Industrial designers -- United States Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Institute of Design (Chicago, Ill.) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
International style (Architecture) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Laboratories -- England -- Manchester Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Le Corbusier, 1887-1965 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
National parks and reserves -- Law and legislation Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Newspaper buildings -- Massachusetts -- Orleans Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Steel furniture Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Vacation homes -- Massachusetts -- Wellfleet Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Weingarten Brothers Showrooms (London, England) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Yale University. School of Art and Architecture Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

Serge Ivan Chermayeff was born on October 8, 1900 near Grozny in the Chechen region of the Northern Caucasus. Chermayeff began his career as an interior designer for the London firm of Waring & Gillow, creating streamlined modern interiors for various residential and commercial clients. In 1931 he formed his own architectural office and was joined in 1933 by German Erich Mendelsohn, with whom he designed several notable projects in and around London and Southern England, including the De La Warr Pavilion (1934-1935), the R. J. Nimmo residence (1935), and the Dennis Cohen residence (1936), each a notable example of International Style design. Although his partnership with Mendelsohn ended in 1936, both men remained friends for many years. Among Chermayeff's most important designs during this period was that for his own residence, Bentley Wood (1937-1938), in East Sussex, England. A controversial laboratory for his ideas about public and private spaces and modern aesthetics, it received considerable attention from the architectural press. It led, however, to financial difficulties and Chermayeff was forced to sell in 1939, barely a year after completion.

In 1940, Chermayeff immigrated to the United States, settling briefly in San Francisco, California, to collaborate with local architects on several residential and commercial projects, including the Clarence Mayhew residence (1942) and the Walter Horn residence (1942). Chermayeff soon moved to New York City to become professor of art at Brooklyn College, a position he held until Walter Gropius recommended him in 1946 to serve as president of the Institute of Design in Chicago following László Moholy-Nagy's death. Chermayeff left Chicago in 1951 after the Institute of Design merged with the Illinois Institute of Technology. Teaching briefly at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Chermayeff then joined the faculty at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard in 1953, where he was instrumental in developing a rigorous curriculum for urban design and planning and in organizing symposia and collaborative projects around issues of contemporary urbanism. During this period, Chermayeff also maintained a small private architecture practice with Hayward Cutting. In 1962, Chermayeff accepted an appointment in Yale's School of Architecture, where he continued his research and teaching in areas of human interactions with city planning and architecture.

With co-author Christopher Alexander, Chermayeff published "Community and Privacy: Toward a New Architecture of Humanism (Garden City, N. Y., Doubleday, 1963), and with co-author Alexander Tzonis he published "Shape of Community: Realization of Human Potential (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971), both idiosyncratic but widely considered studies of how human biological and social needs intersect with the built environment. Chermayeff's selected lectures and writings were published in "Design and the Public Good" in 1982, which was edited by Richard Plunz, professor in the School of Architecture at Columbia University. A frequent speaker, guest critic, and prolific writer, Chermayeff was also active in numerous professional organizations, including CIAM, MARS, and the American Society of Architects and Planners, and was awarded honorary degrees from several colleges and universities. In addition, he was a life-long artist, industrial designer, and poet, exhibiting at galleries in Chicago and Boston and self-publishing several anthologies of his poetry. Throughout his years in the United States, Chermayeff also sustained close ties to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, maintaining a home and studio near Wellfleet, designing experimental architecture for several clients in the area, and advocating for the establishment of the Cape Cod National Seashore. Chermayeff died in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, in 1996.