Charles Eames occupied a unique position in the design world from 1940 when he and Saarinen won the competition for the design of a chair by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. But it is not just for his designs that he is important. Eames, and his wife and partner Ray Eames, achieved something much more rare: they caused a shift in the way we look at everything. Part of the secret of the Eames' success was that the items he picked for display were never from the world of high-art. Perhaps only Los Angeles, with its free-wheeling cultural ambience and its questioning of European values, could have nurtured and sustained such a frankly hedonist, and whimsical, approach to design.

For John Entenza's Case Study Program for Arts and Architecture, Eames built a residence in Pacific Palisades, California. The Eames House is on a beautiful site: a steep bank with eucalyptus trees along one side. When the steel framing members were already fabricated, Eames completely changed the design, from a bridge house spanning between two supports to a ground-hugging house tucked into the bank. The steel frame, cleverly detailed to emphasize its lightness, has a skin that is typically Eames--windows and panels just as found in the catalogue. Nearby is another CSH built for John Entenza himself, the Entenza House.

Equalling the house in importance are the series of chairs he designed over a period of thirty years. The youthful inventiveness of the early chairs is still most appealing; those shells of formed plywood or fibreglass on light metal supports have yet to loose their allure and stark appeal. In retrospect, they still seem fresh and even contemporary.

The story of modern design has been a very sombre one. Charles and Ray Eames added a touch of whimsy, lightness and delicacy, which expanded into their museum installations and films. They could easily get away with it because of their combined characteristics and superlative technical knowledge coupled with a sharp discerning eye for color and form.

Selected Architects: Gregory Ain | Stiles Clements | Charles Eames | A. Quincy Jones |
Raymond Kappe | Pierre Koenig | John Lautner | Clifford May | Richard Neutra | Rudolph
M. Schindler
| Raphael Soriano | Frank Lloyd Wright | Lloyd Wright

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