The Eames Man-Made Mound Posted January 29, 2016 by Daniel Ostroff

Much has been written about the Eames House, which has been heralded since its completion in 1950.

Eames berm

The Eames House, also known as Case Study House 8, continues to inspire new generations of architects and attract thousands of visitors each year. In 2007, it was designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service, and today, the Eames Foundation is working with the Getty Museum on a “250 year plan” to preserve the House well into the future.

After discovering several unpublished documents at the Library of Congress, we have new insight into some of the ideas that went into the plan and design.  One interesting detail comes from a correspondence between Charles Eames and Peter Blake, then editor of the influential publication The Magazine of Building. 

Like many who admired the Eames House, Blake focused his questions on its construction techniques and its use of steel and various industrial parts. Charles patiently answered each question, but eventually steered Blake’s attention toward something he hadn’t asked: the architectural use of a simple but well-sited earth mound placed between the Eameses’ home and that of John Entenza.

025.Fig 3Charles notes: “The use of straight earth as a man-made mound between John’s house and ours I feel was very successful, and can hardly wait to do bigger and better mounds. What it amounts to is vignetting the ground plane upward, and giving both houses at the same time a feeling of greatest space and enclosure. The mound is planted with eucalyptus bushes which will someday be large.”

The black-and-white image above, in which the Eames House is peeking through the trees, shows how the earth mound looked in 1950. The image was taken next door from John Entenza’s house. The bushes planted there have since grown quite tall, bringing privacy to both homes, just as Charles and Ray intended.

The design duo took great pleasure in the natural, “way-it-should-be-ness” of using an earth mound to address a need. The solution was consistent with the Eameses’ overall approach to design. It is direct, straight-forward, and it addresses the problem in the best and least expensive way.

Blake featured the Eames House on the cover of his magazine, along with two cover stories—one on Charles and Ray’s home and one on what Charles called, “John’s house,” better known as Case Study House Number 9. The complete Q&A between Blake and Charles is published for the first time in An Eames Anthologypages 68 to 71.

In the gallery below, the original drawing shows the site plan, which includes the mound.

For information about visiting the Eames House please visit the Eames Foundation’s website here.