Eames Case Study House #8

1949

Click here to learn more about the Eames Foundation, its 250 year preservation plan for the Eames House, and how to visit the this historic landmark.

 

The Case Study House Program

The Eames House, Case Study House 8, was one of roughly two dozen homes built as part of The Case Study House Program. John Entenza, the publisher of Arts & Architecture magazine, spearheaded the program in the mid-1940s, and it continued through the early 1960s.

In a challenge to the architectural community, the magazine announced that it would be the client for a series of homes designed to express man’s life in the modern world. These houses were to be built and furnished using materials and techniques derived from the experiences of the Second World War. Each home would be for a real or hypothetical client, taking into consideration each of the particular housing needs.

Charles and Ray proposed that the house they design be for a married couple working in design and graphic arts, whose children were no longer living at home. They wanted a place that would make no demands for itself, and would serve as a background for, as Charles said, “life in work,” with nature as a “shock absorber.” Click here to see their design brief in the December 1945 issue of Arts & Architecture.

 

Bridge House vs. Eames House Schematics

The first plan of the Eameses’ home, known as the Bridge House, was designed in 1945 by Charles and Eero Saarinen. The design used pre-fabricated materials ordered from catalogues (a continuation of the idea of mass-production). The parts were ordered and the Bridge House design was published in the December 1945 issue of the magazine, but due to a war-driven shortage, the steel did not arrive until late 1948. By then, according to Ray, she and Charles had “fallen in love with the meadow,” and felt that the site required a different solution.

In the image gallery below, compare the schematics for the Bridge House and the Eames House. These plans were published in the May 1949 issue of Arts & Architecture magazine.

Charles and Ray then set themselves a new problem: How to build a house that would not destroy the meadow and that would “maximize volume from minimal materials.” Using the same off-the-shelf parts, but notably ordering one extra steel beam, Charles and Ray reconfigured the House. They integrated the new design into the landscape, rather than imposing the structure on it. This second design is the one that the husband-and-wife team chose to build.

They moved into the House on Christmas Eve, 1949, and lived there for the rest of their lives. The interior, its objects, and its collections remain very much the way they were in Charles and Ray’s lifetimes. The house they created offered them a space where work, play, life, and nature co-existed.

The Eames House, now a historic landmark, is an iconographic structure visited by people from all across the world. Its charm and appeal are perhaps best explained by Case Study House founder, John Entenza, who felt that the Eames House “represented an attempt to state an idea rather than a fixed architectural pattern.”

 

The Eames House Today

In 2004, Charles’s daughter, Lucia Eames, created a not-for-profit organization called the Eames Foundation to preserve and protect the Eames House and to provide educational experiences that celebrate the creative legacy of Charles and Ray.

Today, the Getty Museum is working with The Eames Foundation on conservation of this historic landmark. Learn more in this download from the museum.

Click here to learn more about the Eames Foundation, its 250 year preservation plan for the Eames House, and how to visit the this historic landmark.

The Eames House (also known as Case Study House No. 8) is a landmark of mid-20th century modern architecture located at 203 North Chautauqua Boulevard in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles. It was constructed in 1949, by husband-and-wife design pioneers Charles and Ray Eames, to serve as their home and studio. Now a historic house museum maintained by the Eames Foundation, it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2006.

Design and history[edit]

A 1.4-acre site near the coast in Pacific Palisades, on a wooded bluff that was once part of Will Rogers' large estate, was selected by the Eameses for their house. The design was first sketched out by Charles Eames with fellow architect Eero Saarinen in 1945 as a raised steel and glass box projecting out of the slope and spanning the entrance drive before cantilevering dramatically over the front yard. The structure was to be constructed entirely from "off-the-shelf" parts available from steel fabricator catalogs. Immediately after the war, though, these parts were in very short supply. By the time the materials arrived three years later, much pre-construction time had been spent picnicking at and exploring the lot where the house would stand. After a period of intense collaboration between Charles and Ray, the scheme was radically changed to sit more quietly in the land and avoid impinging upon the pleasant meadow that fronted the house.

The new design tucked the house sidelong into the slope, with an 8-foot (2.4 m) tall by 200 foot (60 m) long concrete retaining wall on the uphill side. A mezzanine level was added, making use of a prefabricated spiral stair that was to have been the lower entrance. The upper level holds the bedrooms and overlooks the double-height living room. A courtyard was also introduced, separating the residence from the studio space. This revised scheme required only one additional beam. The 17 foot (5.1 m) tall facade is broken down into a rigidly geometric, almost Mondrianesque composition of brightly colored panels between thin steel columns and braces, painted black. The entry door is marked with a gold-leaf panel above. An existing row of eucalyptus trees was preserved along the exposed wall of the house, providing some shading and a visual contrast with the house's bold facade. As for the interior design, the Eameses' collection includes, among others, Isamu Noguchi floor lamps, Japanese kokeshi dolls, Chinese lacquered pillows, a Native American basket full of woven grass stems.[1]

Of the twenty-five Case Study Houses built, the Eames house is considered the most successful both as an architectural statement and as a comfortable, functional living space. The brash sleekness of the design made it a favorite backdrop for fashion shoots in the 1950s and 1960s. Perhaps the proof of its success in fulfilling its program is the fact that it remained at the center of the Eames' life and work from the time they moved in (Christmas Eve, 1949) until their deaths.

Eames House is one prominent architectural example with the influence of the De Stijl Movement outside Europe. The sliding walls and windows give it the trademark versatility and openness of the De Stijl Movement.

Conservation[edit]

The Eames House is operated by a foundation established in 2004 and run in part by the grandchildren of Charles and Ray Eames who maintain the house as an occasional residence. They have overseen the conservation of the structure and have preserved Charles and Ray's collections and decor. After the Eameses died, the house was left largely untouched.[1] The studio is today used for the continuing work of the Eames Office. On September 20, 2006, the Eames House was designated a National Historic Landmark (and administratively listed on the National Register of Historic Places the same day). In 2011, the contents of the living room were reassembled at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as a centerpiece of the exhibition “California Design, 1930-1965: Living in a Modern Way”.[2] That same year, the Eames Foundation hired Los Angeles architectural firm Escher GuneWardena to develop a plan for the house, one that would restore and preserve the house as it was in 1988.[1] In 2012, the Getty Conservation Institute pledged about $250,000 to preservation-related research work at the Eames House.[3] In 2013, the Eames Foundation teamed up with the digital marketing agency Nebo to produce limited-edition prints for auction with a goal of raising $150,000; every donation will be matched by an Authenticity Fund created by modern furniture manufacturers Herman Miller and Vitra.[4]

The house was included in a list of all-time top 10 houses in Los Angeles in a Los Angeles Times survey of experts in December 2008.[5]

Literature[edit]

In February 2010 LAS Magazine posted an article about the building's history and current significance to the Eames Century Modern Collection, a typography project by design studio House Industries.[6]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Steele, James (1994). Eames House: Charles & Ray Eames (Architecture in Detail). London & New York: Phaidon. ISBN 0-7148-4212-5. 
  • Smith, Elizabeth A. T. (1989). Blueprints for Modern Living: History and Legacy of the Case Study Houses. Cambridge: MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-69213-9. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 34°1′47″N118°31′10″W / 34.02972°N 118.51944°W / 34.02972; -118.51944

Rendering of the residence and studio
Eames House from Eames Studio
  1. ^ abcHay, David (2011-09-24). "Conserving A Classic". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 12 November 2015. 
  2. ^Christopher Hawthorne (September 30, 2011), Review: 'California Design 1930-1965: Living in a Modern Way' at LACMALos Angeles Times.
  3. ^Christopher Hawthorne (March 21, 2012), New Getty initiative aims to boost preservation of modern architectureLos Angeles Times.
  4. ^Ellen Himelfarb (February 22, 2013), Eames Foundation sells prints in fundraising bid to save Eames HouseWallpaper.
  5. ^Mitchell, Sean (December 27, 2008). "The best houses of all time in L.A." Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-12-27. 
  6. ^LAS House Industries Eames Century Modern article

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