With a new Eames retrospective, The World of Charles and Ray Eames, is now showing at London’s Barbican until 14 February 2016, the praised husband and wife duo are very much in trend, their miscellaneous productions garnering substantial consideration from an ever interested design audience.
The Barbican’s exhibit looks to be a truthful, intuitive and multidimensional curation of the Eameses astonishing collection, integrating their best-loved design pieces, private insights, the Eames Office and a wide-ranging criticism of their creative endeavors.
Charles and Ray Eames are without doubt two of the most significant and important American designers of the 20th century. As well as their well-known furniture designs, the Eameses contributed to architecture, industrial design, manufacturing, art, film and photography among other creative genres.
Married in 1941, Charles and Ray were known in those early days for their work in molded plywood. Indeed they were bespoke by the United States Navy during World War II to manufacture molded plywood splints and stretchers. With the war’s end, the Eameses and their office returned their focus back to furniture-making and in 1945 created the iconic molded plywood chair – the LCW. This work would lead to their breakthrough in molded fiberglass seating.
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On 5th January 1948 the International Competition for the Design of Low-Cost Furniture, an event seized in union with the Museum of Modern Art, opened for submissions. Charles Eames joined in the project and would later be declared as the second prize winner for seating units (the now famous molded shell chairs). Though the shell chair design was originally steel molded (not fiberglass), it was given a prize as an outcome of its groundbreaking and versatile base system and a choice of either arm or side chair set-ups. Steel molds were costly to produce and somewhat soulless and cold.
In modern times, the Eames shell chair is a worthy design classic. Found in private homes and public venues, workplaces, restaurants and bars, its adjustable nature is both inspiring and clever.
The Eames House
The Eameses designed and built their own house as part of the Case Study House Program. In a challenge to the architectural community, the magazine was the client for a series of homes designed to express man’s life in the modern world and these homes were to be built and furnished using materials and techniques derived from the experiences of the Second World War.
The Eames House – Case Study House 8 – was realized in 1949. Charles and Ray took up residence on Christmas Eve that year and would live there for the rest of their lives. Today The Eames House is a treasured historic landmark.
Charles and Ray Eames looked upon design as a tactic of resolving difficulties and proposing the most beneficial answers. Theirs was an energetic, truthful and unique approach, sometimes unusual and characteristically avant-garde. They were creative, bouncy, even somewhat playful. It is these sides of their respective and balancing personalities that enhance to the imaginative genius that was Charles and Ray Eames.