Last chance to see: Exhibition in Japan celebrates all things Eames
To mark the 80th anniversary of the Eames design office, Tokyo’s Isetan The Space gallery hosts an exhibition (until 5 January 2022), highlighting some of Charles and Ray Eames’ most celebrated designs as well as new editions and collaborations
Celebrating eight decades of the Eames Office is a new selling exhibition staged at Isetan The Space gallery in Tokyo (until 5 January 2022). Featuring over 90 works, ‘80 Years of Design’ includes artworks, photography, architectural models, furniture design, games and books, and it is narrated through archive materials and films from the practice’s history.
Eames Office: 80 Years of Design
The exhibition explores the designers’ innovative approach through three thematic areas: Art & Technology, demonstrating the experimental side of their practice; Architecture & Interiors, showcasing their innovation in interior design; and Play & Learn, a display highlighting the couple’s affinity for bringing joy and wonder into their work.
Additional context to the works is brought by a 6m-long timeline that greets visitors at the entrance, weaving through eight decades and touching upon Charles and Ray Eames’ life and work as a couple (1941 – 1978), Ray’s solo work following Charles’ death (1978 – 1988), and the studio’s further development until the present day, under Eames Demetrios, director of the Eames Office (1988 – 2021).
‘The exhibition demonstrates how the optimistic philosophies and human-centered design solutions that Charles and Ray [embraced] are more relevant than ever through unique, rare and vintage works, revival of pivotal works alongside special projects and collaborations that continue to bring Charles and Ray’s powerful ideas to life today,’ says Demetrios.
‘“80 Years of Design” brings to life a prolific, multifaceted legacy and encapsulates the dynamism with which the Eames Office is forging ahead into the future,’ adds Kentaro Shishido, general manager of Isetan Shinjuku, the store where the gallery is located.
Eames Modular House #1
Among the exhibition’s marvels is a model of a previously unseen Eames Modular House. Modular House #1 was created by Charles and Ray in 1951, two years after they built their iconic home and studio as part of the Case Study House programme.
Modular House #1 was imagined as a way to take the Case Study House programme to the next level, a simple structure whose parts could be pre-fabricated and assembled with relative ease. The project was left unrealised due to sponsorship issues, and 70 years later the Eames Office team spent over 12 months researching original drawings, photos and blueprints to recreate the model at 1:12 scale.
The prefabricated Eames house is defined by an open plan surmounted by a curved plywood roof, and furniture including bespoke pieces as well as Eames designs for clients such as Herman Miller. The model offers a glimpse into the duo’s vision for a democratic approach to architecture and interiors.
From sneakers to playing cards: special edition Eames products
A series of new collaborations further brings the Eameses’ world to life: from sneakers with Reebok that pay tribute to Ray’s patterns, to an Eames-themed puzzle by Ravensburger, and a playing cards set with the Eames Office Starburst Logo.
With the Australian skate brand Globe, Eames Office created the limited-edition ‘Eucalyptus Skateboard Deck’, crafted from a single eucalyptus tree that stood near Charles and Ray’s home and studio (but had to be removed due to threats to the structure – a process that was carried out in collaboration with Angel City Lumber, a local initiative that reconnects LA residents with nature by creating products from local wood).
Also on display is furniture by historical Eames collaborators Herman Miller and Vitra, including seating, miniatures and iconic zoomorphic objects such as folk art-inspired whales and plywood elephants.
‘The Eames Office actively seeks to both preserve historical work and create innovative designs and experiences that extend the Eames legacy into the future,’ says Demetrios. ‘We’re thrilled to be able to present iconic tradition and modernity.’ He describes Charles and Ray as ‘voracious adventurers’, and says, ‘Japan’s impact on [their] worldview and work was paramount, and solidified through a formative partnership with Isetan that dates to 1961.’ §