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Home About Designers Charles Eames
Charles Eames PDF Print E-mail
* 17th of June 1907 in St. Louis, Missouri
† 21st of August 1978 St. Louis, Missouri
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Charles Eames, American designer and architect, contributes significantly together with his second wife Ray Eames, maiden name Kaiser (*1912 - †1988), during the development of “Modern Style” in America after Word War II. His functional furniture designs set precedence for designers today. He revolutionizes the furniture industry with his experiments with plywood and fibreglass.
Charles Eames studies architecture at Washington University in St. Louis until 1929. He is already working as an architect building the Meyer House in Huntleigh Village when he comes in contact with Eliel Saarinen, head of the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. The friendship with Saarinen’s son, Eero Saarinen, would have a formative influence on Eames's subsequent career.
In 1938, Eliel Saarinen offers Charles Eames a scholarship to the Cranbrook Academy, where Eames studies design and architecture. Cranbrook is renowned for its architecture in the Arts and Crafts Movement style.
The Arts and Crafts Movement begins primarily as a search for authentic and meaningful styles for the 19th century and as a reaction to the eclectic revival of historic styles of the Victorian era as well as the "soulless" machine-made production aided by the Industrial Revolution. Arts and Craft has an effect on movements like the Vienna Workshops (Wiener Werkstätte), German Work Federation (Deutscher Werkbund) and Bauhaus. The academy is considered the most important in America. A well known journalist of the New York Times pronounces the Cranbrook Campus as one of the most beautiful in the American continent. With an estate of nearly one billion dollars in 2007, the Cranbrook schools is part of the wealthiest schools of the United States.
In 1939, Charles Eames begins to teach design at Cranbrook and becomes head of the industrial design department in 1940.
During World War II, he refines on an invention to bend plywood like plate.
Together with Eero Saarinen, Charles Eames takes part in the "Organic Design in Home Furnishings" competition established in 1940 by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The main design, an armchair with a seat and back made of a single piece of three-dimensionally shaped plywood, gets a prize but turns out to be unsuitable for mass production. Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen collaborate during this period with Harry Bertoia, Don Albinson, and Ray Kaiser.
One year later, Charles marries Ray Kaiser and the newlywed couple settles down in Los Angeles.
Charles works as a set designer for MGM Studios and Ray designs covers for "Art & Architecture Magazine". In their own flat, they continue to experiment with the "Kazam! Machine" press on developing an efficient and economical method for moulding plywood in three dimensions.
In 1942, Charles and Ray Eames founded the Plyformed Wood Company, making splints and stretchers of moulded plywood for the US Navy. Financial difficulties forced the Eames to sell the business to the Evans Product Company, where Charles Eames becomes head of the department for research and development.
In 1946, the Museum of Modern Art shows the exhibition, "New Furniture by Charles Eames", showing prototypes of the plywood furniture like the Lounge Chair Wood (LCW), which is made of several moulded wooden elements. The "LCW" is based on a 1940’s design and a further development of it with armrests becomes the prototype of the world famously complex Lounge Chair and Ottoman from 1956, which he presents to film director Billy Wilder for his birthday.
In 1948 he designs the Plywood chair and the Plywood Coffee Table, followed by the famous Ellipse Table in 1956.
By the end of the 1950s, Ray and Charles Eames are also experimenting with fiberglass and aluminium.
In 1958, the "Aluminium Group" is born. The specification for the Aluminium Group is a chair, which can be used inside as well as outside of buildings. At the same time, the use of material should be less and the volume minimized. After three years of development the first prototypes are made.
By the consequent application of the principle of construction in the course of time, some various office and conference chairs like Aluminium Chair EA 105, Aluminium Chair EA 108, Aluminium Chair EA112, Soft Pad Chair 217, Soft Pad Chair 219 are built.
IBM and the US government become Charles and Ray Eames’ most prominent clients.
In 1964, after years of making educational and promotional films for IBM, Charles and Ray Eames design the IBM Pavilion at the New York World's Fair.
In 1977, “Powers of Ten”, one of the Eames' most influential documentary films, is produced. The film depicts the relative scale of the universe in factors of ten. In 1998, "Powers of Ten" was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant”…have a look at YouTube.com, it’s worth seeing.

A year after producing this impressing film in 1978, he dies at the age of 71 years in St. Louis, Missouri.
Charles Eames, together with his wife Ray, are considered to be outstanding and versatile designers of the 20th century.
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