HIGHLIGHT: CHARLES AND RAY EAMES

HIGHLIGHT: CHARLES AND RAY EAMES

Charles and Ray Eames are among the most important American designers of the 20th century. The Eameses are best known for their groundbreaking contributions to architecture, furniture design, industrial design and manufacturing, and the photographic arts.

Charles Eames was born in 1907 in St. Louis, Missouri. He attended school there and developed an interest in engineering and architecture. After attending Washington University in St. Louis on scholarship for two years and being thrown out for his advocacy of Frank Lloyd Wright, he began working in an architectural office.  In 1930, Charles started his own architectural office. He began extending his design ideas beyond architecture and received a fellowship to Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, where he eventually became head of the design department.

Ray Kaiser Eames was born in 1912 in Sacramento, California. She studied painting in New York before moving on to Cranbrook Academy where she met and assisted Charles in preparing designs for the Museum of Modern Art’s Organic Furniture Competition. Charles and his partner’s designs, created by molding plywood into complex curves, won them the two first prizes.

Charles and Ray married in 1941 and moved to California where they continued their furniture design work with molding plywood. During World War II they were commissioned by the United States Navy to produce molded plywood splints, stretchers, and experimental glider shells.  In 1946, Evans Products began producing the Eameses’ molded plywood furniture. Their molded plywood chair was called “the chair of the century” by the influential architectural critic Esther McCoy. Soon production was taken over by Herman Miller, Inc., who continues to produce the furniture in the United States today. The other partner, Vitra International, manufactures the furniture in Europe.

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CASE STUDY HOUSE 8: EAMES HOUSE

In 1949, Charles and Ray designed and built their own home in Pacific Palisades, California, as part of the Case Study House Program sponsored by Arts & Architecture magazine. Their design and innovative use of materials made the House a mecca for architects and designers from both near and far. Today, it is considered one of the most important post-war residences anywhere in the world.

CASE STUDY HOUSE 9: THE ENTENZA HOUSE, 1949

“Case Study House 9, also known as the Entenza House, was designed for Arts & Architecture publisher and editor John Entenza as part of his innovative Case Study House program. The property is situated on a primarily flat parcel on a bluff in Pacific Palisades overlooking the Pacific Ocean, at 205 Chautauqua Boulevard. The design of Case Study House 9 exemplifies the concept of merging interior and exterior spaces through glass expanses and seamless materials.

GRIFFITH PARK RAILROAD, 1957

The Eames Office designed the station, rail yard, and graphics for Griffith Park Railroad, including concessions tickets, posters, and signage. For the station house—painted in olive drab, red, and black—they gained inspiration from Victorian railway architecture and typography. They also built other architectural elements and props to the same scale as the train (one-fifth life size).

HERMAN MILLER SHOWROOM

Throughout the 1950s and into the early 1960s, the Eames Office designed the building and installed the interiors and furniture groupings for Herman Miller’s Los Angeles showroom.  Charles and Ray designed much of the new furniture introduced in this period, including the Eames Plastic Armchairs and Side Chairs, and a variation of the Eames Folding Table. The husband-and-wife team enlivened the showroom spaces with a vast array of objects. Integrated within the furniture displays, one could find anything from toys, plants, and tumble weed to sculptures, folk art, and photo murals.

THE KWIKSET HOUSE

In 1951, the Kwikset Lock Company of Anaheim, California, commissioned the Eames Office to design a low-cost, prefabricated house. Charles and Ray planned to construct it with off-the-shelf parts and hardware. This would allow Kwikset to manufacture the house in quantity and sell it as a kit; this stemmed from the Case Study Program’s idea of normalizing industrial, postwar materials in residential building. The hope was to allow postwar families and indiviuals to live in a “modern” way for an afforable price tag with a reduction in materials and time spent building. The Eameses proposed a one-story house, modular in plan, with a curved plywood roof and exposed beams. The interior had an open plan with a large living room that opened out onto a garden.

THE MEYER HOUSE, 1936 – 1938

The Meyer House has five bedrooms, four-and-a-half bathrooms, a tennis court, and a greenhouse. Eames and Walsh made custom furnishings for the home, as well as decorative glass, murals, and other site-specific artworks. In it, Charles seems to have been exploring curves: a circular library/study opens off a landing on the main stairwell, while a set of nested curves related the back terrace and its view of the gardens to the echoing form of the dining room.

MAX AND ESTHER DE PREE HOUSE, 1954

The Eames Office designed this house in Zeeland, Michigan for Max De Pree, his wife Esther, and their two children. The Eameses designed the house entirely of timber. The front façade is a modular grid while the back has a long, second-story balcony that looks onto a garden and wooded area leading to a stream. The office designed the house in the same spirit of economical construction as the Kwikset House.

REVELL TOY HOUSE, 1959

In the late ’50s, the Eames Office designed a model house kit in ¾-inch scale, completely furnished with miniature Eames furniture and accessories. Designed for a toy manufacturer named Revell Company, the kit was to include a system of modular units of structural grids and panels made by Revell out of injection-molded plastic. Charles and Ray designed the rooms and spaces in varying sizes that they could be built into one, two, three and four-level structures.

Source: https://www.eamesoffice.com/

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