Charles EamesJune 17, 1907 - August 21, 1978) was an American designer, architect and filmmaker who, together with his wife Ray, is responsible for many classic, iconic designs of the 20th century. He was born in Saint Louis, Missouri, where he studied architecture at Washington University and later opened an architectural practice.
One great influence on him was the Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen (whose son Eero, also an architect, would become a partner and friend). At Saarinen's invitation, he moved in 1938 with his first wife Catherine Woermann Eames and daughter Lucia to Cranbrook, Michigan, to further study architecture and design at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, where he would become a teacher and head of the industrial design department. Together with Eero Saarinen he designed prize-winning furniture for New York's Museum of Modern Art "Organic Design" competition. Their work displayed the new technique of wood moulding, that Eames would further develop in many moulded plywood products, including, besides chairs and other furniture, splints and stretchers for the US Navy during World War II.
In 1941, Charles and Catherine divorced, and he married his Cranbrook colleague Ray Kaiser, moving with her to Los Angeles, California, where they would work and live for the rest of their lives. In the late Forties, as part of the Arts & Architecture magazine "Case Study" program, Ray and Charles designed and built the groundbreaking Eames House, their home. Located upon a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and constructed entirely of pre-fabricated steel parts intended for industrial construction, it remains a milestone of modern architecture.
In the Fifties, the Eameses would continue their work in architecture and furniture design, often (like in the earlier moulded plywood work) pioneering innovative technologies, such as the fiberglass and plastic resin chairs and the wire mesh chairs designed for Hermann Miller. Besides this work, Charles would soon channel his interest in photography into the production of short films. From their first one, the unfinished Traveling Boy (1950), to the extraordinary Powers of Ten (1977), their cinematic work was an outlet for ideas, a vehicle for experimentation and education.
The Eameses also conceived and designed a number of landmark exhibitions. The first of these, "Mathematica, a World of Numbers and Beyond" (1961), is still considered a model for scientific popularization exhibitions. It was followed by "A Computer Perspective - Background to the Computer Age" (1971) and "The World of Franklin and Jefferson" (1975-1977), among others.
The Office of Charles and Ray Eames, which functioned for more than four decades at 901 Washington Boulevard in Venice, California, included in its staff, at one time of another, a number of remarkable designers, like Don Albinson and Deborah Sussman. Among the many important designs originating there are the Eames Lounge Chair (1956), the Aluminum Group furniture (1958) and the Eames Chaise (1968), designed for Charles's friend, film director Billy Wilder, as well as the playful Do-Nothing Machine (1957), an early solar energy experiment, and a number of toys.
Charles Eames died in 1978 while on a consulting trip in his native Saint Louis.