Conservation plans announced for Eames House

Conservation plans announced for Eames House

The Eames House has enjoyed celebrity from inception. Published even before it was built, it formed one of the famed Case Study houses that appeared in Art and Architecture Magazine from 1945. Now, announced at the 70th anniversary of the storied home’s construction, the Getty Conservation Management Plan, spearheaded by the Getty Conservation Institute and the Eames Foundation, aims to preserve the entire house and contents to celebrate the Eames’ humanisation of industrial modernism.

The house’s idea was born when Art and Architecture Magazine editor John Entrenza anticipated the post war boom in building and decided to bring affordable, practical architecture available to the audience of his magazine. Inviting acclaimed architects to create bespoke housing designs, the magazine effectively acted as the client; and so it began.

Five of the houses in the series were built in Pacific Palisades, in parcels of land owned by Entreknza, who sold the site for Case Study House 8 to Ray and Charles Eames – right next to his own house, Case Study 9, which was one of the few architectural projects that Charles worked on.

Entrenza and the Eames had become significantly intertwined after the couple had moved to California. In 1942 they joined forces to form the plyformed wood company, originally making splints for wounded soldiers. The technological and design experience from this would later inform the legendary furniture the team produced; while Charles worked extensively on the Art and Architecture magazine at the same time, as part of its editorial advisory board.

Contractors undertaking conservation treatment on the wood paneling in the Eames House living room in 2012. Photography: Arlen Heginbotham. Courtesy of J. Paul Getty Trust

The final form of the Eames house was quite different to its very first concept, the ‘Bridge House’, published in the magazine in 1945. Dominance of the landscape using pilotis, which would have given a sea view, was exchanged for a more harmonious relationship with the site. The new structure contained two blocks nestled into the landscape, surrounded by meadow and eucalyptus trees. The house and the landscape become almost seamless as light and shadow pass through the windows. This aspect of the house was thoughtfully accentuated by Ray’s careful planning of the garden, bringing cut flowers into the house, opening windows and curtains, creating an ever-changing and enchanting visual exchange with nature.

The Eames house became a site of pilgrimage when it was included in A Guide to Architecture in Los Angeles and Southern California, published in 1951 with a note that the owners will show their home. The names included on the list of visitors are impressive; they include Alison and Peter Smithson, Norman Foster and Richard Rogers, Kevin Roche and Earo Saarinen. 

To this day, the Eames House is among one of the most widely recognised and internationally influential works of domestic architecture, which is why preserving it is imperative; and this is not just about the structure. The couple delighted in finding new harmonies between craft and machine, and over the years the house was filled with their collection of found and utilitarian objects, now considered to be as integral to the house, as the structure itself, helping to make the Eames house a real family home. §

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