Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Eames House (1949): “Arts & Architecture” Case Study #8

Photograph by versluis, 2011

The Eames House seems, ironically, to contrast with nature and yet at the same time is integral to nature. This horizontal architectural structure of steel, glass, and sheet metal is close in proximity to the Pacific Ocean and becomes a backdrop for the strong verticality of magnificent eucalyptus trees.

Charles and Ray Eames, a husband-and-wife design team, were the principal designers for their house in Pacific Palisades, just northwest and adjacent to Santa Monica, California. The house, built in 1949 was one of the “Case Study Houses” commissioned in 1945 by John Entenza, editor of Arts and Architecture magazine. The main objective of the so-called Case Study Houses was to utilize wartime technology and materials to build modern homes that could fulfill the housing shortage after World War II. [1]

In A Global History of Architecture the authors write this short description about the Eames House:

For the Entenza project, the Eames initially had in mind a pristine Mies-like cube standing on two slender steel columns, cantilevered out from the slope of a hillside lot. However, in 1947, the Eames [especially Ray] decided to build the house more to conform to their personal lifestyle. Still using the same amount of steel, they designed it to enclose more space. The new house, anchored by a retaining wall, nestles against the hillside, parallel to its contours, making it a statement as much about the site, the location, and the inhabitants, as about the deployment of prefabricated industrial materials. Their house featured extremely thin steel framing, with exposed corrugated metal roofing; the building consisted of 18 bays, 2.3 meters wide, 6 meters long, and 5 meters high, which determined the rhythm of the structure. Glazed panels—transparent. opaque, or translucent, as the situation demanded, and occasionally interrupted by painted panels in bright, primary colors [however, gold instead of yellow]—appeared to be an homage to Mondrian. The windows were operable at midlevel, and sliding doors connected to and integrated the courtyard. Grass, plants, and trees surround the building on all sides. [2]
  1. Neuhart, John, Marilyn Neuhart, and Ray Eames. Eames Design, The Work of the Office of Charles and Ray Eames. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1989. 106-21. Print.
  2. Ching, Francis D. K., Mark Jarzombek, and Vikramaditya Prakash. A Global History of Architecture. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2007. 719. Print.

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