Case Study House 8

1949

Click here to learn more about the Eames Foundation, its 250 year preservation plan for the Eames House, and how to visit the this historic landmark.

 

The Case Study House Program

The Eames House, Case Study House 8, was one of roughly two dozen homes built as part of The Case Study House Program. John Entenza, the publisher of Arts & Architecture magazine, spearheaded the program in the mid-1940s, and it continued through the early 1960s.

In a challenge to the architectural community, the magazine announced that it would be the client for a series of homes designed to express man’s life in the modern world. These houses were to be built and furnished using materials and techniques derived from the experiences of the Second World War. Each home would be for a real or hypothetical client, taking into consideration each of the particular housing needs.

Charles and Ray proposed that the house they design be for a married couple working in design and graphic arts, whose children were no longer living at home. They wanted a place that would make no demands for itself, and would serve as a background for, as Charles said, “life in work,” with nature as a “shock absorber.” Click here to see their design brief in the December 1945 issue of Arts & Architecture.

 

Bridge House vs. Eames House Schematics

The first plan of the Eameses’ home, known as the Bridge House, was designed in 1945 by Charles and Eero Saarinen. The design used pre-fabricated materials ordered from catalogues (a continuation of the idea of mass-production). The parts were ordered and the Bridge House design was published in the December 1945 issue of the magazine, but due to a war-driven shortage, the steel did not arrive until late 1948. By then, according to Ray, she and Charles had “fallen in love with the meadow,” and felt that the site required a different solution.

In the image gallery below, compare the schematics for the Bridge House and the Eames House. These plans were published in the May 1949 issue of Arts & Architecture magazine.

Charles and Ray then set themselves a new problem: How to build a house that would not destroy the meadow and that would “maximize volume from minimal materials.” Using the same off-the-shelf parts, but notably ordering one extra steel beam, Charles and Ray reconfigured the House. They integrated the new design into the landscape, rather than imposing the structure on it. This second design is the one that the husband-and-wife team chose to build.

They moved into the House on Christmas Eve, 1949, and lived there for the rest of their lives. The interior, its objects, and its collections remain very much the way they were in Charles and Ray’s lifetimes. The house they created offered them a space where work, play, life, and nature co-existed.

The Eames House, now a historic landmark, is an iconographic structure visited by people from all across the world. Its charm and appeal are perhaps best explained by Case Study House founder, John Entenza, who felt that the Eames House “represented an attempt to state an idea rather than a fixed architectural pattern.”

 

The Eames House Today

In 2004, Charles’s daughter, Lucia Eames, created a not-for-profit organization called the Eames Foundation to preserve and protect the Eames House and to provide educational experiences that celebrate the creative legacy of Charles and Ray.

Today, the Getty Museum is working with The Eames Foundation on conservation of this historic landmark. Learn more in this download from the museum.

Click here to learn more about the Eames Foundation, its 250 year preservation plan for the Eames House, and how to visit the this historic landmark.

Made a National Historic Landmark in 2006 and included on the top 10 all-time list of Los Angeles houses in 2008, it is clear that Case Study House #8, located in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of LA, is highly considered to be a landmark in mid-20th century modern architecture and domestic design.

Initially incepted jointly by Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen, the ‘Eames House,’ as it came to be known, was later modified during the construction process by Eames and his wife Ray in order to maximize its spatial area.

Like so many other case study houses, #8 was built, almost ergonomically, as an attempt to create a living space that understands and accentuates the possibilities and eases of everyday domestic life.

For the Eames’s, who required a space that combined their professional lives with their domestic lives as most of their work preparations took place in the home, concentration and relaxation were continually mixed and permeated the fabric of family living. This is reflected in the home that they built together and Case Study House #8 was simply designed to seamlessly incorporate the often separate spheres of work life and domestic life within one single abode.

In order to achieve this harmony between work and relaxation, the house consists of two adjacent, double-height pavilions; one of which houses a residence while the other houses a studio and workshop space.

By laying out the house in this manner, the Eames’s were able to create a ‘separate-but-close’ space where one could work for a time and then switch effortlessly into comfortable domestic life by simply moving to another room within the house.
For the Eames’s, whose professional lives and domestic lives so often overlapped, Case Study House #8 functioned as an integral part of the living pattern of its occupants and was therefore ‘used’ in a very full and real sense; a notion often unusual in such an avant-garde domestic design.

The house itself was built accordingly a modular system that intended to make the construction more expansive rather than restrictive.
This resulted in spaces like the living room, which is basically cubic in shape, working as a core that links both the first and second floor areas that both open out onto the central room. This design creates a vast physical space that coherently links areas of the home that may otherwise exist separately.

Charles and Ray Eames chose to use industrial, prefabricated materials, including steel, glass, asbestos and cemesto board, for the entirety of the construction and uses these materials, their varying textures and colors, to ‘animate’ the buildings rectangular design.

After World War II, however, these ‘off-the-shelf’ materials were in short supply and it wasn’t until approximately three years after the house’s design was completed that the materials were delivered and this time was spent thoroughly searching for an appropriate plot of land on which to build the house.

The actual site of Case Study House #8, found on North Chautauqua Boulevard, was excavated in a hillside behind a row of tall eucalyptus trees; a quiet, calm location that enjoyed an unobstructed view of the ocean.

The feeling that the house had grown out of the hills and the secluded nature of the location exuded a sense that the Eames House had been created in its own little world, screened all around by high trees, foliage and rolling hills. This was the perfect location for such a harmonious home, which, despite being conceived as prototypical, was lovingly lived in and works as a highly personal reflection of the possibilities and coexistences of work and leisure; simple characteristics of Charles and Ray Eames’ unique was of life.

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