Charles & Ray Eames

Architect’s Chairs

Every architect needs a SIGNATURE CHAIR and their modern chairs embody their design aesthetic and creative process. Chair are not a far departure from architecture, in fact in many ways a chair requires the same spatial consideration and informs as much response from the user as architecture does.  If you haven’t spent much time thinking about chair design it is worth some reflection. Chairs can reinforce the architecture of a space as well as how that space is to be used.  Does the chair allow for a relaxing or is it straight formal.  Does the chair look comfortable or sculptural appropriate more to be looked at then used.

Take a look at these chairs… can you see the resemblance in the architecture?

Mies van der Rohe

Barcelona Chair vs Barcelona Pavilion

Eero Saarinen

Tulip Chair vs TWA Airport

Alvar Aalto

Paimio Chair vs. Baker House

Daniel Libeskind

Diamond Chair vs The ROM

Ray and Charles Eames

Lounge Chair vs. Case Study House 8

Zaha Hadid

Z Chair vs MAXXI Museum

  

Maya Lin

Stones vs. Vietnam Memorial

Frank Lloyd Wright

Barrel Chair vs Guggenheim

Gerrit Rietveld

Red and Blue Chair vs The Rietveld Schröder House

Richard Neutra

Boomerang Chair vs Kaufmann House

 

Frank Gehry

Cardboard Armchair vs. Vitra Design Museum

 

Le Corbusier

Chaise vs Notre Dame du Haut

If you love chairs as much as most architecture groupies do here are a few MUST HAVE books to quench your thirst for more beautifully designed chairs:

Furniture by Architects: From Aalto to Zumthor poses such questions as: do architects design differently to product designers? Do they exhibit any consistent aesthetic preferences? Is there something typically architectural in their designs? Furniture by Architects features works by Alvar Aalto, Ron Arad, Gae Aulenti, Karl Bertsch, Emil Beutinger, Marcel Breuer, Pierre Chareau, Egon Eiermann, El Lissitsky, Norman Foster, Frank Gehry, Walter Gropius, Zaha Hadid, Marc Held, Josef Hoffmann, Arne Jacobsen, Le Corbusier, Daniel Libeskind, Gio Ponti, Richard Riemerschmid, Gerrit Rietveld, Eero Saarinen, Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott, O.M. Ungers, Mies van der Rohe, Otto Wagner, Frank Lloyd Wright and Peter Zumthor, among others.

Fifty Chairs That Changed the World takes an up-close look at chair designs that have had the greatest impact on the look and feel of modern interiors.

 

 

How To Design a Chair tells you everything you need to know and looks at the principles and processes of designing a chair, from its symbolic and functional properties to materials and mass-production techniques. In a working case study Konstantin Grcic, one of the world’s best-known furniture designers, traces the design and development of one of his most successful chairs – the Myto – from start to finish and reveals what it takes to create a successful design.

which chair is your favorite, would you sit in any of these?

Visit architectureGROUPIE.com a Modern and Contemporary Architecture Travel Guide

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Charles and Ray Eames

Charles Eames:  Born in St. Louis, 1907, studied architecture at Washington University.  In 1936 began his fellowship at Cranbrook Academy of Arts in Michigan, during this time he collaborated with Eero Saarinen on furniture design.  The team won first place in MoMA’s ‘Organic Design in Home Furnishings’ competition.

Bernice Alexander Kaiser (name changed to Ray in 1954):  Born in Sacramento, California, 1933, studied painting at The Arts Students League and the Hans Hoffman School in New York.  In 1940 began school at Cranbrook Academy of Arts in Michigan where she met Charles.

Charles and Ray Eames where married in 1941, moved to Los Angeles and “began the greatest husband-and-wife collaboration of the century” (Fiell 141).

Case Study House No. 8

Pacific Palisades, California, 1945 to 1949

The Eames House is a double-storey unit divided into house and studio areas by an open court.
Made of light steel frame, standard 7 foot 6 inch bays, with sashes and panels from standard industrial components utilized in a straightforward and workmanlike way.  Materials such as: transparent panels, clear or wired glass; translucent panels of glass fibre, opaque panels of wood and coloured aluminum  were used for the building shell.  The interior was filled with furniture, flowers, pillows, toys, candles, with a mezzanine and built-in
seats, and bookcases.

This house was designed for a living pattern and not as a fixed architectural pattern.

Design Philosophy:

They could not see why the living, moving, outward-rounded human form should have to be flattened against a rigid, straight surface, or pressed down on an arbitrarily curved one when sitting or lounging.  Chair seats and back should be sculpted to fit and conform to body movements.

The Eames strived to create well-designed furniture for the masses which was affordable, durable and comfortably fit the body thus providing a positive house environment.
Their chairs belong to the occupants, not to the building.

They began working with fiberglass in the 1950s because it could be easily manipulated, creating a one-piece chair which was mass produced for Herman Miller Co. with Zenith Plastics and UCLA.
The Plastic Shell Group of chairs were made of molded fiberglass-reinforced polyester seat shell connected to various metal rod bases, with rubber shock-mounts, some were designed to be stack-able.

New technologies were fundamental as well as close relationships with manufactures to ensure they employed the latest products and techniques.
Charles and Ray were thorough and vigorous in their process.

Ray Eames stated that “what works is better than what looks good.  The ‘look good’ can change, but what works, works.”

Eames Plywood Work:

Lounge Chair and Ottoman,
1956-7, ($634 in 1957, today $5500 )
The comfortable executive chair is made of rosewood veneer, moulded plywood shells, upholstered foam and downfilled and leather cover on a swivelling cast aluminium base.

“This differs from bent plywood in that there is no excessive compression or internal stresses set up nor any tendency to return to the flat shape.

At the time of curing the individual plys of veneer are held in the desired relation to each other and so take the molded contour as their natural shape.”

Charles and Ray created a one-piece compound curved chair through the use of their homemade ‘Kazam’ Machine.  It worked by pushing glued plys, with a bicycle pump, against an electrically  heated plaster mold creating the curved plywood chair.  This process worked but took
4 to 6 hours, too long for mass production.

Process & Technique:

Eames Sketches

Charles and Ray experimented on innovative methods of molding plywood into furniture for mass production.  Their designs are molded in two directions creating compound curves from thin veneers laminated together, achieving considerable strength.

Designs were explored with full scale models from preliminary sketches, working drawings were rare.  These models under went scrutinized testing for comfort and durability.

In 1941 The Chrysler Corporation invented a process called cycle-welding which allowed wood to be joined to rubber, glass or metal, without protruding bolts or screws, this connection absorbs shock and distribute stress.  However at this time the technology was reserved for the military.  Eventually the use of Rubber Shock Mounts and Electronic Cycle Welding became available and applied to their designs.
This same process was used to mass produce the molded-plywood forms.  A synthetic resin was placed between each sheet of laminated timber, allowing each layer to cure for a few seconds while heat is supplied by a wave emission from an electronic instrument.

The mechanical components are displayed but not glorified, they believed that it was appropriate to make the greatest use out of the least amount of material.

Charles Eames stated “I think of myself officially as an architect.  I can’t help but look at problems around us as problems of structure-and structure is architecture”

Bibliography:

      

Charles and Ray Eames: Designers of the Twentieth Century

Eames Design

Eames: The Architect and the Painter

Charles Eames. Furniture from the Design Collection. The Museum of Modern art, New York

Vitra Campus – Weil am Rhein

Why visit Weil am Rhein? …. Vitra

Weil am Rhein is a located in Germany but boards onto both Switzerland and France and is about 20 minute drive from Basel, Switzerland.

As an architecture groupie you may be wondering why I would feature such a small and obscure town.  Well Weil am Rhein is home to the Vitra Campus which is a mecca for any modern architectural enthusiast.

Vitra is a furniture company founded in Weil am Rhein, Germany in 1950 by Willi Fehlbaum.  Specializing in the production and retail of furniture originally designed by many internationally celebrated designers.  Priding themselves on creating beautiful well-design and well-made furniture.  Although Vitra is company famous for reproducing furniture designed by many well named architects they have also gained a reputation for commissioning celebrated architects to manufacture, house and exhibit their products.

In 1981 a large fire destroyed most of Vitra Campus who were forced to rebuild and continue to expand.  Nicholas Grimshaw was the first to begin the rebuild and Herzog and de Mueron has been the most recent project, completed in 2010, currently a new Factory Building by Kazuyo Sejima / SANAA is scheduled for completion in 2012.  The Vitra Campus is a collection of contemporary capital ‘A’ architecture.

The Vitra Design Museum by Frank Gehry is an exhibition of the design and architecture of Vitra.

Visit architecturegroupie.com/weil-am-rhein for a directory of the Vitra contemporary architecture.

Vitra Campus

When visiting the Vitra Campus be sure to take a guided architectural tour of the campus as well as a guided tour of the exhibition.

For the tour schedule visit www.vitra.com/en-us/campus/visit .

In addition the new workshop at the center of the Lounge Chair Atelier holds live demonstrations of the production of the famous Lounge Chair by Ray and Charles Eames check out this video demonstration

 

Vitra Miniatures Collection

Besides the modern designed life-size furniture, Vitra also manufactures The Miniatures Collection which is collection of 80 small-scale furniture pieces.  The pieces are considered to be the most influential in design from 1850 to the present day.  Model builders measure the historical original in the museum collection and then scale it down to one sixth of the original size, compile technical documentation and replicated each with impressive precision.  The Vitra Miniatures Collection include The Barcelona chair by Mies van der Rohe, the Tulip Chair by Saarinen, the Barrel Chair by Frank Lloyd Wright and of course a series of furniture pieces by  Ray and Charles Eames to name a few.

Here is the full Vitra Miniatures Collection

These miniatures can be delivered directly to your home at  Vitra Miniatures at Amazon or click the image below to order.

   



     

If you have been to the Vitra Campus – share your experience with us.