About this talk

Running time: 29 minutes

The late Serge Chermayeff was born in Russia and educated in Britain, where he became a British subject and practised architecture before World War II. But in 1940, he emigrated to the USA, became an American citizen and devoted his life to teaching environmental design. Many of today's leading architects have emerged from his courses benefited by his informed, analytical and incisive approach.

First he was at Brooklyn College, New York. Then, in the 1940s, he went to work with Gropius (see The Victory Of The Modern Approach Is Sure) at Harvard. In the 1960s, he joined Paul Rudolph at Yale where he remained until his retirement in 1970 with the title Professor Emeritus, at which point he felt free to travel and study planning in far-flung countries. All this he describes in his talk.

And he concludes: "As a teacher, my subject has always been 'environmental design', not 'architecture'. The experience gave me a clear view that professional involvements are not anything that can be frozen. They are constantly changing, growing, adjusting - a natural process, a constant inter-action between environment and the function. Nothing is ever finished, particularly in relation to planning. Everything obsolesces". Gropius once wrote to his students to the following effect: "Don't think that when you have done something it is of importance. Because what is important is that the thread of action behind your action will be picked up by somebody else. Your worth will be the judgement of those who pick up your work and carry it further".

Serge Chermayeff


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