Serge Chermayeff was born Serge Ivanovich Issakovitch on October 8, 1900 in Grozny, now the Chechen Republic. He was educated in England. After working as an interior designer, in 1930 he and German architect Erich Mendelsohn briefly partnered to form their own architectural firm. They created some of the iconic works in the British Modernist movement, including the De La Warr Pavilion. His own house in Sussex, built in 1938, served as an inspiration to British architects between the wars, when many of the continental refugees found asylum in England. By 1940 most had relocated to the United States and Chermayeff was among them.
He continued his architectural practice and commenced a long teaching career which began at Brooklyn College where he was the chairman of the Architecture Department. In 1946, he was recom-mended by Walter Gropius to become the president of the Institute of Design in Chicago where he stayed until 1951. He went on to teach at Harvard, Yale and MIT until his retirement, in 1970.
Chermayeff co-founded a number of architectural societies, including the American Society of Planners and Architects, and wrote several influential books, including Community and Privacy with Christopher Alexander in 1964 and The Shape of Community with Alexander Tzonis in 1971.
He first came to Wellfleet in 1944 at the invitation of Peter Harndon, an architect friend of Jack Phillips. Phillips sold him 12 acres with a small cabin, a hand pump and privy for $2,000.
Chermayeff expanded this property over the years into a family compound. The studio next to the main house is a lightly constructed, cross-braced, prototype. He executed two more versions for clients nearby in the woods of Wellfleet.
He designed at least ten more houses and commercial structures on the Outer Cape. Chermayeff painted avidly his whole life, often copying paintings he admired and often giving special pieces to friends when invited for dinner. He died in Wellfleet in 1996.
Projects on the Outer Cape
Theodore H. Clark store and workshop, Wellfleet, 1953
Seldes Arms, renovation
Charles Flato House
Edwin Meiss House
Heywood Cutting residence remodeling
Cape Codder, printery and office, Orleans, 1957
Residences at Crystal Lake
Herbert Wechsler addition Wellfleet, date unknown
Sketch of the Chermayeff studio prototype. (Drawing appeared in House and Home magazine, 1954.