|The Eames Office|
|Significant works and honors|
|Projects||Eames Lounge Chair Wood (LCW)|
Eames lounge chair and ottoman
Powers of Ten
Mathematica: A World of Numbers... and Beyond
|Awards||AIA Twenty-five Year Award, 1977 |
Royal Gold Medal, 1979 "The Most Influential Designer of the 20th Century" IDSA 1985
Honorary Doctorate, Otis College of Art and Design, 1984.
Charles Ormond Eames, Jr. (1907-1978) and Bernice Alexandra "Ray" Kaiser Eames (1912-1988) were an American married couple of industrial designers who made significant historical contributions to the development of modern architecture and furniture through the work of the Eames Office. They also worked in the fields of industrial and graphic design, fine art, and film. Charles was the public face of the Eames Office, but Ray and Charles worked together as creative partners and employed a diverse creative staff. Among their most recognized designs is the Eames Lounge Chair and the Eames Dining Chair.
Charles Eames and Ray Kaiser met at Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1940. Charles arrived at the school on an industrial design fellowship as recommended by Eliel Saarinen, but soon became an instructor. Ray enrolled in various courses to expand upon her previous education in abstract painting in New York City under the guidance of Hans Hofmann. Charles entered into a furniture competition--with his "best friend" Eero Saarinen--hosted by the Museum of Modern Art. Eames and Saarinen's goal was to mold a single piece of plywood into a chair; the Organic Chair was born out of this attempt. The chair won first prize, but its form was unable to be successfully mass produced. Eames and Saarinen considered it a failure, as the tooling for molding a chair from a single piece of wood had not yet been invented. Ray stepped in to help with the graphic design for their entry.
Shortly after, Charles and Ray were married (June 17, 1941) in Chicago. Their honeymoon was a road trip in which the pair relocated permanently from the Midwest to Los Angeles. Their first home, after staying in a hotel for a few weeks, was Neutra's Strathmore Apartments in the Westwood neighborhood. Charles and Ray began creating tooling and molding plywood into chairs in the second bedroom of the apartment, eventually finding more adequate work spaces in Venice.
The Eameses worked approximately 13-hour days, six or seven days a week, and directed the work of a team of collaborators. Through the years, its staff included many notable designers: Henry Beer and Richard Foy, now co-chairmen of CommArts, Inc.; Don Albinson; Deborah Sussman; Annette Del Zoppo; Peter Jon Pearce; Harry Bertoia; and Gregory Ain (who was Chief Engineer for the Eameses during World War II).
The Eameses believed in "learning by doing"- before introducing a new idea at the Eames Office, Charles and Ray explored needs and constraints of the idea extensively.
In addition to their initial attempts in the molding of plywood into functional furniture, the Eameses developed a leg splint for wounded soldiers during WWII. This was in response to the war's medical officers in combat zones reporting the need for improved emergency transport splints. The Eameses created their splints from wood veneers, which they bonded together with a resin glue and shaped into compound curves using a process involving heat and pressure. With the introduction of plywood splints, they were able to replace problematic metal traction splints that had side effects of inducing gangrene due to impairment of blood circulation. The US navy's funding for the splints allowed Charles and Ray to begin experimenting more heavily with furniture designs and mass production.
Eames products were manufactured on Washington Boulevard until the 1950s. Among the many important designs originating there are the molded-plywood DCW (Dining Chair Wood) and DCM (Dining Chair Metal with a plywood seat) (1945); Eames Lounge Chair (1956); the Aluminum Group furniture (1958); the Eames Chaise (1968), designed for Charles's friend and film director, Billy Wilder; the Solar Do-Nothing Machine (1957), an early solar energy experiment for the Aluminum Corporation of America; and a number of toys. Herman Miller officially relocated the tooling and resources for the mass production of Eames designs to its headquarters in Zeeland, Michigan in 1958. Herman Miller, along with their European counterpart Vitra, remain the only licensed manufacturers of Eames furnitures and products.
As with their earlier molded plywood work, the Eameses pioneered technologies, such as using fiberglass as a materials for mass-produced furniture. From the beginning, the Eames furniture has usually been listed as by Charles Eames. In the 1948 and 1952 Herman Miller bound catalogs, only Charles' name is listed, but it has become clear that Ray was deeply involved and was an equal partner with her husband in many projects. Charles was consistently advocating that Ray was his equal. In August 2005, Maharam fabrics reissued Eames designed fabrics; Sea Things (1947) pattern and Dot Pattern. Dot Pattern was conceived for The Museum of Modern Art's "Competition for Printed Fabrics" in 1947. The Eames fabrics were designed solely by Ray. In 1979, the Royal Institute of British Architects awarded Charles and Ray with the Royal Gold Medal. At the time of Charles' death they were working on what became their last production, the Eames Sofa, which went into production thanks to Ray's efforts in 1984.
Charles and Ray channeled their separate interest in photography and theatre into the production of 125 short films. From their first film, the unfinished Traveling Boy (1950), to the most-recognized Powers of Ten (re-released in 1977), to their last film in 1982, their cinematic work was an outlet for ideas, a vehicle for experimentation and education. The couple often produced short films in order to document their interests, such as collecting toys and cultural artifacts on their travels. The films also record the process of hanging their exhibits or producing classic furniture designs. One film, Blacktop, filmed soap suds and water moving over the pavement of a parking lot, a normally mundane subject turned visually poetic. Powers of Ten (narrated by physicist Philip Morrison) gives a dramatic demonstration of orders of magnitude by visually zooming away from the earth to the edge of the universe, and then microscopically zooming into the nucleus of a carbon atom. The "Powers of Ten shot" has been referenced by Hollywood as a praised filming technique.
Charles attended Washington University from 1936-1938 and was expelled from the architecture program due to his loyalty to the practices of Frank Lloyd Wright. He constructed two churches in Arkansas and three homes in St. Louis without an architecture license. He relocated to Michigan to attend the Cranbrook Academy of Art.
Three years after arriving in Los Angeles, Charles and Ray were asked to participate in the Case Study House Program, a housing program sponsored by Arts & Architecture magazine in the hopes of showcasing examples of economically-priced modern homes that utilized wartime and industrial materials. John Entenza, the owner and editor of Arts & Architecture magazine, recognized the importance of Charles and Ray's thinking and design practices--alongside becoming a close friend of the couple. Charles and Eero Saarinen were hired to design Case Study House number 8, which would be the residence of Charles and Ray, and Case Study House number 9, which would house John Entenza, in 1945. The two homes (alongside other Case Study houses) would share a five-acre parcel of land in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood north of Santa Monica, which overlooked the Pacific Ocean. Because of post-war material rationing, the materials ordered for the first draft of the Eames House (called "the Bridge House") were backordered. Charles and Ray spent many days and nights on-site in the meadow picnicking, shooting arrows, and socializing with family, friends, and coworkers. They learned of their love for the eucalyptus grove, the expanse of land, and the unobstructed view of the ocean. They made the decision to not build the Bridge House and instead reconfigured the materials to create two separate structures nestled into the property's hillside. Eero Saarinen had no part in this second draft of the Eames House; it was a full collaboration between Charles and Ray. The materials were finally delivered and the house was erected from February through December 1949. The Eameses moved in on Christmas Eve and it became their only residence for the remainder of their lives. It remains a milestone of modern architecture.
The Eames Office designed a few more pieces of architecture, many of which were never put into fruition. The Herman Miller Showroom on Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles was built in 1950 and the De Pree House was constructed in Zeeland, Michigan for Max De Pree, son of the founder of Herman Miller, and his growing family. Unbuilt projects include the Billy Wilder House, the prefabricated kit home known as the Kwikset House, and a national aquarium.
The Eameses also conceived and designed a number of exhibitions. The first of these, Mathematica: A World of Numbers... and Beyond (1961), was sponsored by IBM, and is the only Eames exhibition still in existence. The Mathematica exhibition is still considered a model for science popularization exhibitions. It was followed by A Computer Perspective: Background to the Computer Age (1971) and The World of Franklin and Jefferson (1975-1977), among others.
Charles died on August 21, 1978 while visiting St. Louis. Ray survived exactly another decade, passing away on August 21, 1988 in Santa Monica, California.
Charles's daughter, Lucia Eames, inherited the Eames collections and Eames House. Although Charles did not concern himself with the future of their designs after their death, Ray was actively planning the continuation of the Eames legacy during the last decade of her life. Ray asked that Lucia and the rest of the Eames family be responsible for all future decisions in regard to Eames designs, the work of the Office, and the preservation of the Eames House and meadow. She founded the Eames Foundation in 2004 in order to preserve and share the legacy of the Eames House with the public for future generations. Lucia Eames died in 2014, leaving her five children as the Board of Directors of the Eames Office and Eames Foundation. The Eames Office continues its work in educating and advocating for the legacy of the Eameses, which includes occasionally releasing previously un-produced Eames designs.
Between 1950 and 1982, Charles and Ray Eames made over 125 short films ranging from 1-30 minutes in length...This 6-disc DVD set contains 39 films by the husband and wife team, including Powers of Ten, House: After 5 Years of Living, Design Q&A, Tops, Eames Lounge Chair, Day of the Dead, Toccata for Toy Trains and The World of Franklin and Jefferson.