The Eames Aluminum Group Collection (1958) began as a special project for Eero Saarinen and Alexander Girard, who needed seating for a home they were designing for industrialist J. Irwin Miller in Columbus, Indiana. The pair asked the Eameses to design light, mobile leisure chairs. At the time, Charles and Ray were exploring ways to use aluminum, which had been strengthened, refined and made more affordable since WWII. So, they constructed a lightweight, die-cast aluminum frame and set a sling in it – a “sitting pocket,” as they called it, which subtly conformed to the body’s shape. This completely new type of seat marked a departure from the idea of a chair as solid shell.The lithe chairs of the Eames Aluminum Group have been a popular design since their introduction in 1958. And no wonder—their graceful silhouettes work well in a variety of home and workplace interiors.
Given that these chairs are so popular in interiors, it is interesting that the inspiration for them developed because of the need for high-quality outdoor seating. Eero Saarinen asked Charles and Ray to produce the Eames Aluminum Group Collection as a special project for his and Alexander Girard’s Irwin Miller House in Columbus, Indiana.
While working on the chairs, the husband-and-wife team often referred to them as the “leisure group” or the “indoor-outdoor group.” The latter is revealing of the Eameses’ design philosophy. They strived to make their products perform well in addressing as many needs as possible. That a chair would work outdoors and indoors was part of their original concept.
Charles and Ray had used aluminum in earlier chair and table bases and had also experimented with stamping chair shells out of aluminum sheets for the Low-Cost Furniture Design competition; however, the Eames Aluminum Group marked their first use of the material for structural side members and represented a major departure from the concept of the chair as a solid shell.
Herman Miller began manufacturing the Eames line of aluminum furniture in 1958, and, now along with Vitra, they continue to sell the chairs and the matching ottoman today.