Charles (June 17, 1907 – August 21, 1978) and Ray Eames (December 15, 1912 – August 21, 1988) are best known for their personal and artistic collaboration, and their innovative designs that shaped the course of modernism. Their firm worked on a diverse array of projects, with designs for exhibitions, furniture, houses, monuments, and toys. Together they developed manufacturing processes to take advantage of new materials and technology, aiming to produce high quality everyday objects at a reasonable cost. Many of their furniture designs are considered contemporary classics, particularly the Eames Lounge & Shell Chairs, while the Eames House is a seminal work of architectural modernism.
Architects are often bound by the will of their client, reluctantly sacrificing and compromising design choices in order to suit their needs. But what happens when architects become their own clients? When architects design for themselves, they have the potential to test their ideas freely, explore without creative restriction, and create spaces which wholly define who they are, how they design, and what they stand for. From iconic architect houses like the Gehry Residence in Santa Monica to private houses that double as a public-entry museum, here are 9 fascinating examples of how architects design when they only have themselves to answer to.
Nestled in the verdant seaside hills of the Pacific Palisades in southern California, the Entenza House is the ninth of the famous Case Study Houses built between 1945 and 1962. With a vast, open-plan living room that connects to the backyard through floor-to-ceiling glass sliding doors, the house brings its natural surroundings into a metal Modernist box, allowing the two to coexist as one harmonious space.
Like its peers in the Case Study Program, the house was designed not only to serve as a comfortable and functional residence, but to showcase how modular steel construction could be used to create low-cost housing for a society still recovering from the the Second World War. The man responsible for initiating the program was John Entenza, Editor of the magazine Arts and Architecture. The result was a series of minimalist homes that employed steel frames and open plans to reflect the more casual and independent way of life that had arisen in the automotive age.
The Eames are mainly known for their furniture and their house in Pacific Palisades, which they also used as an office. Few people are aware of the Max and Esther De Pree House, a rare venture into residential architecture by the Eames.
This month's interactive 3D floor plan shows a simple and beautiful steel frame structure designed by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen. The Case Study House Program, initiated by John Entenza in 1945 in Los Angeles, was conceived to offer to the public models of a low cost and modern housing. Predicting the building boom after World War II, Entenza invited renowned architects such as Richard Neutra to design and build houses for clients, using donated materials from manufacturers and the building industry.
Entenza was the editor of the monthly magazine Arts & Architecture, in which he published the ideas of the participating architects that he had invited. Two of those architects were Eero Saarinen and Charles Eames, who for Case Study House number 6, Entenza commissioned to design his own home. The house was built just a few meters away from Charles and Ray Eames’ house which the duo also constructed as part of the Case Study program.
Celebrated in Mexico on November 1st and 2nd, Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) honors the deceased. This video, made by Charles and Ray Eames in 1957, looks at the philosophy and origins of the Mexican holiday, presenting the folk objects and rituals associated with the celebration. Watch the short film above to learn more.
The Eames Case Study House #8, usually known simply as Eames’ House, is usually presented as a kind of kaleidoscope of details. It remains one of the most exuberantly performative homes in the history of architecture, with its resident designers, Charles and Ray Eames, as the chief actors. They enacted the day-to-day as an ongoing celebration, documenting the daily rituals of work, play, and hospitality with photography and film. What this theatre of life conceals is that the Eames’ house was itself, structurally, a kind of theatre. Examining the house as an interactive Archilogic 3D model holds, for this reason, some revelations even for those for whom the house looks as familiar as an old friend.
Few in the twentieth century straddled the demarcation between design and architecture as effortlessly – or as successfully – as Ray and Charles Eames. For the Eameses, the distinction was artificial and unhelpful; useful creative thought emerged from a process-based method of problem solving, design solutions addressed and resolved specific needs, and success could be effectively measured by an object’s ability to do its jobs. But while the Eameses were famously weary of design’s historical tendency toward “creative expression,” their work exhibited none of the abject sterility threatened by a devotion to extreme functionalism. They found that delight was itself utilitarian, and an object’s capacity to produce pleasure for its user allowed for the consideration of aesthetics as one metric of serviceability. From this belief in the unity of performance and perception emerged some of the century’s most iconic designs: Case Study House #8, the Molded Plywood Lounge Chairs, and the 670 & 671 Eames Lounge and Ottoman.
The forthcoming An Eames Anthology, edited by Daniel Ostroff and published by Yale University Press, chronicles the careers of Ray and Charles Eames in their pursuits as designers, architects, teachers, artists, filmmakers, and writers. As Ostroff attests, with over 130,000 documents archived in the Library of Congress, the Eameses were nothing if not prolific; this volume, accordingly, is not comprehensive so much as representative, curated to reflect the breadth of interests and accomplishments of the pair.
In preparation for a 1949 lecture at the University of California, Los Angeles on “Advice for Students,” Charles made the following notes on inspiration, methodology, and career strategy. They are excerpted here from An Eames Anthology:
Today Charles Eames - the taller half of modernism's greatest power couple, Charles & Ray Eames - would have turned 107. Although perhaps best known for their furniture design (particularly the Eames Lounge & Shell Chairs), the couple is well known in architectural circles for the home they designed in 1945 and subsequently lived in: the Eames House (or Case Study House No. 8, as it was part of the Arts & Architecture magazine's "Case Study" program).
In honor of Charles Eames' birthday, we've rounded up some fantastic videos: produced by the Eames themselves, HOUSE (a tour of their home) and Powers of Ten (their 1977 exploration of the universe's magnitudes), this 1956 clip of the pair's first TV appearance, a video of the construction of the Shell Chair and, at the Vitra Campus, the Eames Lounge, the TED Talk delivered by the pair's grandson, and the trailer to The Architect & The Painter (the must-watch documentary on the pair's lives). See all the videos after the break!