Charles Eames, born in 1907 in St. Louis, Missouri, embarked on a journey into architecture. He designed numerous homes and places of worship in collaboration with various partners. His work captured the attention of Eliel Saarinen, who extended an invitation for a fellowship at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan in 1938. In 1940, a pivotal moment arrived when Charles, alongside Eero Saarinen, secured the first prize in the 'Industrial Design Competition for the 21 American Republics,' often referred to as 'Organic Design in Home Furnishings,' orchestrated by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. In the same year, Charles assumed the role of head of the industrial design department at Cranbrook.

Ray Eames, originally named Bernice Alexandra Kaiser and hailing from Sacramento, California, came into this world in 1912. Her educational journey led her to Bennett College in Millbrook, New York, and her passion for art guided her to the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts until 1937. In that year, she showcased her artwork in the inaugural exhibition of the American Abstract Artists group at the Riverside Museum in New York. Her path ultimately led to the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1940.

In 1941, Charles and Ray Eames entered into matrimony and made their way to Los Angeles, where they embarked on a collaborative exploration of three-dimensional plywood molding techniques. Their mission was to craft chairs that harmonized comfort with affordability. However, the outbreak of World War II disrupted their endeavors. Charles and Ray redirected their inventive energies toward designing and manufacturing plywood leg splints, which saw extensive use by the United States Navy.

The turning point came in 1946 when their experimental furniture designs graced the halls of MoMA. Subsequently, the Herman Miller Company in Zeeland, Michigan, undertook the production of Eames furniture. The couple's journey continued with their participation in the 1948 'Low-Cost Furniture' competition at MoMA and the construction of the iconic Eames House in 1949, serving as their private residence.

Beyond their contributions to furniture and architecture, Charles and Ray dabbled in graphic design, photography, film, and exhibition design.

In 1957, Vitra entered into a license agreement with Herman Miller, commencing the production of Eames designs for Europe and the Middle East. The profound and enduring influence of Charles and Ray Eames on Vitra extended beyond their creations. Their design philosophy remains a significant influence on the company's values, orientation, and aspirations. Vitra's decision-making often contemplates the question: What would Charles and Ray Eames say?

In the years before their passing (Charles in 1978 and Ray in 1988), the Eames family upheld a close relationship with Vitra, overseeing matters related to the preservation, evolution, and production of Eames designs. Vitra stands as the sole authorized manufacturer of Eames products for Europe and the Middle East, assuring the authenticity of Eames creations.

Furniture by Charles and Ray Eames holds a central place in the Vitra Design Museum collection. A substantial portion of the couple's estate was acquired in 1988. Following the exhibition 'The Work of Charles and Ray Eames' in 1997/98, the Vitra Design Museum presents a comprehensive retrospective of their life's work, titled 'An Eames Celebration,' comprising four simultaneous exhibitions on the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein. Marking this occasion, the museum has published 'Eames Furniture Sourcebook' and 'Essential Eames: Words & Pictures.'

Video

This Vitra Session tells the shared story of the designer couple Charles and Ray Eames and the furniture manufacturer Vitra