17 Feb

The Chermayeff Century

The American Bicentennial logo, designed by Chermayeff & Geismar. Pictured on the Viking 2 Mars Lander, late-1970s. Reproduced in 032c, Winter 2011.

So we got our hands on that issue of German fashion-art magazine 032c, featuring articles on and interviews with the Chermayeffs (previously mentioned). I gotta say their characterization of the family as something like the Royal Tenenbaums seems increasingly apt. The biographical profile, written by Carson Chan, has a foreword with some highlights:

For the newest wave of cultural observers, the name CHERMAYEFF may not mean much. But to flip through the hidebound epic of their collective lives, is to realize the depths of their influence in the world of architecture and design. Their tale has been spinning out for more than a century. It’s the ascension of Serge, a young Russian tango dancer in Jazz Age London, who ended up a pioneering cynosure of American architecture education (Sir Norman Foster: “At Yale, Serge Chermayeff had an incredible impact on me.”) It’s about his sons, Ivan and Peter, whose combined output has quite concretely shaped public space for countless millions. Ivan, the original Don Draper, gave NBC its rainbow peacock emblem … Peter the world’s most cherished aquariums. The story continues with Sam, Ivan’s son, a rallying leader and Kazuyo Seijima/SANAA’s right-hand man …

It’s accompanied by three interviews conducted by an all-star cast: photogapher Thomas Demand, 2×4 founder Michael Rock, and the tireless Hans Ulrich Obrist. Between them you have: the Chermayeff kids frolicking with the Breuer kids in Cape Cod, grandparents appearing in books by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Bertrand Russell crashing on the couch, hanging with Amelia Earhart, Philip Johnson and Alfred Barr showing up to a morning court session in full evening wear, a pet bird landing on Buckminster Fuller’s head, and of course the steely patriarch Serge winning the World Tango Championship.

And when you have Sam Chermayeff, age 9, delivering the opening remarks to the Aspen Design Conference I think you’re firmly in Wes Anderson territory. More at 032c’s site.

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17 February 2012
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