The Eames House, Case Study House 8, was one of roughly two dozen homes built as part of The Case Study House Program. John Entenza, the publisher of Arts & Architecture magazine, spearheaded the program in the mid-1940s, and it continued through the early 1960s.
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 houses 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 each of the particular housing needs.
Case Study House #8 proposed that the house be built for a married couple working in design and graphic arts, whose children were no longer living at home. The house would make no demands for itself, and would serve as a background for, as Charles said, “life in work,” with nature as a “shock absorber.” Click here to see the design brief in the December 1945 issue of Arts & Architecture.
The first plan of the Eameses’ home, known as the Bridge House, was designed in 1945 by Charles and Eero Saarinen. The design used pre-fabricated materials ordered from industrial and commercial catalogs. The parts were ordered and the Bridge House design was published in the December 1945 issue of the magazine, however, due to a war-driven shortage, the steel did not arrive until late 1948. By then, according to Ray, she and Charles had “fallen in love with the meadow,” and felt that the site required a different solution.
In the image gallery below, compare the schematics for the Bridge House and the Eames House. These plans were published in the May 1949 issue of Arts & Architecture magazine.
Charles and Ray then set themselves a new problem: How to build a house that would not destroy the meadow and that would “maximize volume from minimal materials.” Using the same off-the-shelf parts, but notably ordering one extra steel beam, Charles and Ray reconfigured the house’s design into a double-story two-structure residence and studio. They integrated the new design into the landscape’s north-south hillside, rather than imposing the structure on it. Construction began in February of 1949, the foundation and steel frame was completed in 16 hours, and the remainder of the modular home was finished by December.
They 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 Eames House, now a historic landmark, is an iconographic structure visited by people from all across the world. Its charm and appeal are perhaps best explained by 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.”
In 2004, Charles’s daughter, Lucia Eames, created a not-for-profit organization called the Eames Foundation to preserve and protect the Eames House and to provide educational experiences that celebrate the creative legacy of Charles and Ray.
The Getty Conservation Institute is continually working with the Eames Foundation on the conservation of this historic landmark and its 250 Year Project. The GCI’s most recent publication, the Eames House Conservation Management Plan, outlines the preservation of the home’s materials and cultural significance.
Learn more about the Eames Foundation, its 250-year preservation plan for the Eames House, and how to visit this historic landmark.