I am excited about the news: The Getty Conservation Institute charts a 100-year plan for the Eames House. Why excited? Because this prefabricated icon, also known as Cast Study House #8 (developed as a part of the Case Study House Program initiated by Arts and Architecture magazine editor John Entenza), was one of the most glamour homes in postwar California, capturing the essence of the American Dream, the stylish Age of Mad Men, and the rise of Southern California modernist lifestyle. Now, it has been tired, lost the spark you clearly see in period photos, and even its breathtaking location, overlooking the Pacific Ocean cannot help the need for restoration.
And, yes, it was the home of the royal couple of the American design world in the years following WWII, Ray and Charles Eames. The two had utilized their home as the backdrop of constructing their identity, as the most substantial expression of their fresh, young lifestyle, the most famous of which, the images published in Life Magazine (below). They filled the industrial steel-and-glass cube, which Eames designed with his friend Eero Saarienan in 1949, with knick-knacks, books, and objects they bought in their travels, making a statement of what it meant to live in the California Dreaming. My former professor, design historian Pat Kirkham, who published the best monograph of the Eamses to date, coined the term ‘Humanizing Modernism’ to describe the juxtaposition of stark, pristine, glass structure with the colorful, eclectic, warm, comfortable, and personal interior, which set the Eames House apart from classical modernism, often described today as the American contribution to the Modern Movement.
The Getty Conservation Institute does remarkable work in identifying important buildings in need for conservation, and in funding master plan for conservation of the selected structures. The architects assigned for project are Frank Escher and Ravi GuneWardena who bring tremendous experience in the field of preservation, restoring some iconic California buildings. At the end of this long process, the Eames House will be brought into its original glow.