|Avery Drawings & Archives Collections|
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Series I: Personal Papers
Series III: Project Records
Series IV: Professional Papers
Series VI: Faculty Papers, Brooklyn College
Series VII: Faculty Papers, Institute of Design
Series IX: Faculty Papers, Harvard University
Series X: Faculty Papers, Washington University
Series XI: Faculty Papers, Yale University
Series XII: Community and Privacy
Series XIII: Shape of Community
At a Glance
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
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.
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.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library
This collection was processed by Annemarie van Roessel, Mellon Project Archivist, Dept. of Drawings & Archives, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, in 2005.
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.