In the 1940s and 1950s, people across the United States were eager to finish the war waging overseas and start anew. At this time, there a widespread shift in design concepts arose. Design quickly turned into an exciting visual language that signaled the new age, and two of its forerunners were husband and wife design team Charles and Ray Eames.
Charles Eames was a designer, architect and filmmaker. While studying architecture at Washington State University in St. Louis, the university dismissed him because of views they labeled “too modern” and because of his advocacy of Frank Lloyd Wright.
Ray Eames was an artist, designer and filmmaker. Born in Sacramento, California, her parents taught her the quality of enjoying oneself, which led to Ray inventing furniture designs and a plethora of toys. In 1940, a friend of Ray’s suggested she begin her architect and design studies at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, where she eventually met Charles Eames, later marrying him in 1941.
The Eames duo returned to California and continued their furniture design work by molding plywood into different shapes. During World War II, the United States Navy commissioned them to produce molded plywood splints, stretchers and experimental glider shells. These splints and other plywood products was constructed into the molded plywood chair, also called “the chair of the century” by influential historian Esther McCoy. McCoy penned articles about California architecture and design and brought it to the public eye.
Production of the molded plywood chair was soon taken over by Herman Miller, Inc., and the modern furniture design company continues to produce the furniture in the United States today.
Charles and Ray Eames designed and built their own home in California as part of the Case Study House Program sponsored by Arts & Architecture magazine. Today, their home is one of the most important post-war residences anywhere in the world.
“The role of the designer is that of a very good, thoughtful host anticipating the needs of his guests.” – Charles Eames.
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