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CHARLES AND RAY EAMES
 
 
 
 
  Name   Charles Ormond Eames, Jr. and Bernice Alexandra "Ray" Kaiser Eames
       
  Born    
       
  Died    
       
  Nationality   USA
       
  School    
       
  Official website   www.eamesoffice.com
     
 
BIOGRAPHY        
   

Charles and Ray Eames believed that good design was a means to better living. With their architecture, furniture design, films, and exhibitions, the Eameses sought to change the way people thought about everyday objects and daily life. Using new, low-cost, prefabricated construction materials, they set out to make good design inexpensive and accessible.

Charles and Ray formed their professional partnership in 1941, the year they married and moved to Los Angeles. However, all the work was submitted solely under Charles’s name until 1947, at which time the design firm became known as the Eames Office. In recent studies, feminist historians have attempted to assert Ray’s importance in the partnership, claiming for her some of the recognition she did not receive during her lifetime. Ray, who studied under Hans Hofmann and at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, contributed an abstract sculptural sense, an aesthetic refinement, and an eye for detail to their design work. With two years of architectural training at Washington University in St. Louis, several years in architectural firms, and some experience with mechanics and manufacturing, Charles brought technical knowledge and engineering skills to the professional partnership. The Arts and Crafts ideals of Cranbrook had a lasting effect on the Eameses’ holistic approach to design.

The Eameses’ best-known and most influential architectural work is the house they designed for themselves: Case Study #8 (1949). The Case Study House Program, sponsored by the journal Arts and Architecture under John Entenza, was initiated in 1945 as a venue for architects to produce innovative prototypes for postwar American living. Designed for specific clients who were mainly professionals or the artistic elite, the Case Study Houses focused on aesthetic and technological innovation. Charles collaborated with Eero Saarinen on the initial plan for Case Study #8 in 1945; however, the design was substantially revised by the Eameses before construction. Interested in the work of European modernists Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius, Marcel Breuer, and others, the Eameses adapted the spare, functional machine aesthetic to their interest in individual expression. The Eames House was the first Case Study House to use a steel frame, and the innovative adaptation of prefabricated construction and industrial material to residential architecture proved very influential. To the Eameses, a house was an exhibition space for the occupants. Because the designs were published in Arts and Architecture and the finished buildings were open to the public for six to eight weeks be fore their occupation by the clients, this architectural program was accessible to an extensive audience. Charles also collaborated with Saarinen on a house for John Entenza, Case Study #9 (1949), which was built on a lot neighboring the Eames House at Pacific Palisades. The Case Study Houses came to define a new kind of Californian style, and the Eames House in particular captured public attention and helped define the image of what was modern and American in the postwar period, both within the United States and internationally.

Other notable architectural works include the showroom for the Herman Miller Furniture Company (1949) in Los Angeles, designed shortly after the company began manufacturing the Eameses’s furniture. Using steel-frame construction and a glass facade of windows and opaque panels, the exterior of the showroom, as well as the concept of a flexible interior space, was similar to the Eames House. Two unrealized competition entries for public projects in the 1940s, City Hall (1943) designed with John Entenza, and a proposal for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (1997), attempted to create a spatial arrangement of elements that opened the channels of communication between government and citizens. Projects from the 1950s include the Max De Pree House (1954) in Zeeland, Michigan, designed for the son of the president of the Herman Miller Furniture Company, and the Griffith Park Railroad (1957), which was a miniature railroad station in a Los Angeles park. There were a number of other unrealized buildings, including a house for Billy Wilder (1950), a project for low-cost mass housing commissioned by the Kwikset Lock Company of Anaheim (1957), and a Birthday House for Hallmark Cards (1959). They did not take on any architectural projects in the 1960s or 1970s.

After 1949, the Eameses began to concentrate more on furniture design, toys and decorative objects, films, and later exhibi- Office were commercially produced. The Herman Miller Furniture Company began to manufacture, market, and distribute furniture from the Eames Office in 1946, and the designs soon gained international recognition. As in their architectural projects, they adapted wartime techniques and materials, such as plywood, metal, and plastic (resin and fiberglass), to new purposes. Responding to functional and technical challenges rather than market demand, the domestic, corporate, and institutional furniture ranged from inexpensive and massproduced styles to highpriced models.

Film, multimedia, and exhibition design appealed to the Eameses’s desire to communicate ideas. Educational presentations were their specialty, and they delighted in producing everything from independent films to further the public understanding of science to films for corporate clients who eagerly embraced the medium as a training and marketing tool in the 1950s and 1960s. Glimpses of the U.S.A. (1959), a multiscreen film presentation about everyday life in America, was commissioned by the U.S. Department of State as part of a cultural exchange for the American National Exhibition in Moscow. With this project, tions. Between 1945 and 1978, more than 40 furniture projects designed by the Eames Charles and Ray helped define the image of America to an international audience during the Cold War.

For the Eameses, solving design problems was a way of making the world a better place. While their architecture made an important contribution to the development of Californian mod ernism, the functionalist philosophy that informed it contributed to all of their design work. The Eameses wanted people to see beauty in the everyday, and in all its forms, their design is a celebration of life.

SARAH BASSNETT

 
 
 
 
 
 
TIMELINE        
   

Charles Eames was born in St. Louis in 1907. He spent two years in the architecture program at Washington University, and during this time, he began working for a large architectural firm, Trueblood and Graf.

In 1930, he and Charles Gray started their own office in St. Louis, and then in 1933, Eames left for an eight-month trip to Mexico.

After a brief period with the Historic American Buildings Survey, his next venture was another architectural firm, Eames and Walsh.

In 1938, he went to the Cranbrook Academy of Art to pursue a fellowship, and he stayed on to set up a design department.

Here, he met his life-long friends, Eliel and Eero Saarinen and Ray Kaiser.

In 1941, Charles and his first wife, Catherine Woermann, were divorced, and he married Ray.

The same year, Charles and Ray moved to Los Angeles to work on their own design projects, although in the first few years, Charles also worked in the art department at MGM.

In 1943, the Eameses opened their office in 901 West Washington Boulevard. This is where the Eames Office remained until after both Charles and Ray had died.

The Eameses began designing furniture in 1944, and in the 1950s and 1960s, they also produced a wide range of films and exhibitions.

Charles received many awards, including the AIA Gold Medal Award in 1957.

He lectured at the California Institute of Technology from 1953 to 1956 and at Harvard University from 1970 to 1971.

He was also granted numerous honorary doctorate degrees.

Ray Kaiser was born in Sacramento in 1912.

From 1933 to 1940, she studied with Hans Hofmann, first in New York, and later at the Cranbrook Academy of Art.

During this time, she was involved with the group, American Abstract Artists.

Ray and Charles met at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1940, and they married and moved to Los Angeles in 1941.

Between 1942 and 1947, Ray designed covers for California Arts & Architectu re, and she began to collaborate with Charles on a wide range of design projects.

Together they produced a vast body of work.

Their partnership lasted until Charles died in 1978.

For the last ten years of her life, Ray continued her work at the Eames Office, she gave public presentations of film and multi-media projects, and she worked on a two books.

Over the years, Charles’s and Ray’s work has been the subject of numerous exhibitions, including a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1973.

 
 
 
 
 
 
FURTHER READING        
    Albrecht, Donald (editor), The Work of Charles and Ray Eames: A Legacy o f Inventi on, New York: Harry Abrams in association with the Library of Congress and the Vitra Design Museum, 1997 Banham, Reyner, “Architecture IV: The Style That Nearly…,” Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies, London: Penguin Press, 1971 Demetrios, Eames, An Eames Primer, New York-Universe Publishing, 2001 Kirkham, Pat, Charles and Ray Eames: Designers of the Twentieth Centur y, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London: MIT Press, 1995 McCoy, Esther, Modern California Houses, New York: Reinhold, 1962; 2nd edition, Case Study Houses 1945–1962, Los Angeles: Hennessey and Ingalls, 1977 Neuhart, John, Marilyn Neuhart, and Ray Eames, Eames Design: The Work of the Of fice of Charles and Ray Eames, New York: Harry Abrams, 1989 Smith, Elizabeth A.T. (editor), Blueprints for Modern Living: H istory and Legacy of the Case Study Houses, Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1990 Smithson, Alison, and Peter Smithson, Architectural Design, “Eames Celebration,” special issue (September 1966) Smithson, Alison, and Peter Smithson, Changing the Art of Inhabitati on, London: Artemis London, 1994 Steele, James, Eames House: Charles and Ray Eames, London: Phaidon, 1994

Selected Publications

Eames, Charles, “City Hall,” Architectural Forum (May 1943) ——, “City Hall,” Arts & Architecture (June 1943) ——, “Design, Designer and Industry,” Magazine of Art (December 1951) ——, “Design Today,” California Arts & A rchitecture (September 1941) ——, “The Exploring Eye: Sun Mill,” Architectural Review (February 1959) ——, “Language of Vision: The Nuts and Bolts,” Bulletin of the American Academy o f Arts and Sciences (October 1974) ——, “Organic Design,” California Arts & Archi tecture (December 1941) ——, “A Prediction: Less Self-Expression for the Designer.” Print (January–February 1960) ——, “What is a House?” Arts & Architectu re (July 1944) Eames, Charles, and Ray Eames, Eames Report, Los Angeles: Eames Office, 1958 Eames, Charles, and John Entenza, “Case Study Houses 8 and 9 by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen, Architects,” Arts & Architecture (December 1945) Eames, Ray, and Philip and Phylis Morrison, Powers of Ten, Redding, Connecticut: Scientific American Library and W.H. Freeman, 1982 Eames, Ray, John Neuhart, and Marilyn Neuhart, Eames Design: The Work of the Of fice of Charles and Ray Eames, New York: Harry Abrams, 1989

BOOKS AVAILABLE TO DOWNLOAD

 
 
 
 
 
 
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