The Eames Office - Charles and Ray Eames
The Office of Charles and Ray Eames was a highly-influential design studio during the 20th century. A husband and wife partnership, Charles and Ray Eames embodied the aesthetic of mid-century modernism and the spirit of inquiry in science and art.
The Office of Charles and Ray Eames was a highly-influential design studio during the 20th century. A husband and wife partnership, Charles and Ray Eames embodied the aesthetic of mid-century modernism and the spirit of inquiry in science and art. Their furniture and industrial design work are still manufactured today by Herman Miller in the US and by Vitra International in Europe.
“[The Eames Office] was a wonderful place… It’s like the things you read about in Vasari’s The Lives of the Painters. It was an atelier. In the midst of a very thriving, vigorous world, with all kinds of things going on, here’s a group of people, a shifting group, [with] a center and a style.”
The Office was a place where no lines were drawn between Art and Science. Charles was trained as an architect and Ray was a sculptor, so as a team they were inherently cross-disciplinary. As designers, they had to think about people—how people use things, what people need, and what materials would be best suited for the design problem at hand. They surrounded themselves with mathematicians, engineers, composers, film makers, and so forth, which gave them the opportunity deepen conversations across disciplines. The Eameses created a space for the meeting of disparate minds, and they created work that was the physical instantiation of that shared understanding.
Materials-based design process
Design is not so much about innovation as it is about process. In general, Charles and Ray Eames thought that you should innovate only as a last resort. Looking at past practices, such as traditional hand work in India, can lead to new applications of old approaches. Eames famously designed splints out of molded plywood during WWII. The same technique is used to produce their iconic chair, which was dubbed “the chair of the century.”
Charles and Ray Eames understood that progress and insight occur on the edges of disciplines. With every design problem they encountered, they underwent a rigorous research process. New connections emerged from this inquiry: ideas, values, materials, events, details, all contributing to a richer understanding of the problem at hand.