Eames House History

HO_EXs103ed-History

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

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 homes 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 their particular housing needs.

Charles and Ray proposed that the home they designed would be for a married couple working in design and graphic arts, whose children were no longer living at home. They wanted a home that would make no demands for itself, and would serve as a background for, as Charles would say, “life in work” and with nature as a “shock absorber.”

 

AW_CEt003-HomePage

Click here to see their design brief in the December 1945 issue of Arts and Architecture.

The first plan of the Eameses’ home, known as the Bridge House, was designed in 1945 by Charles Eames 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, Charles and Ray had “fallen in love with the meadow,” in Ray’s words, and felt that the site required a different solution.

Bridge House Vs. Eames House Schematics
Bridge House vs. Eames House Schematic
Charles and Ray then set themselves a new problem: How to build a house that would: 1) not destroy the meadow and, 2) “maximize volume from minimal materials”.  Using the same off-the-shelf parts, but notably ordering one extra steel beam, Charles and Ray re-configured the House. The new design integrated the House into the landscape, rather than imposing the House on it. These plans were published in the May 1949 of the magazine.  It is this design that was built and is seen today.

Charles and Ray 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 House has now become something of an iconographic structure visited by people from around the world.  The charm and appeal of the House is perhaps best explained in the words of 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.”

HO_BP199-History

Want to know more?

Click here for the National Park Service’s National Historic Landmark Nomination form, a wonderful in-depth study of the Eames House, the Eameses, and the Case Study program, from the House’s design to its historical significance.

Click here for additional resources about the House. For those interested in exploring the broader body of the Eameses’ work (including not only the House, but also their films, photography, exhibitions, graphics, and industrial and furniture design), click here to go to the Eames Office’s bibliography.