Charles and Ray Eames

SOLAR DO-NOTHING MACHINE

Eames Office footage of their remarkable Solar Do-Nothing machine, made as a toy for Alcoa, was recently edited together to offer a way to see it in action. Very difficult to describe, the solar powered toy showed an unexpected use of aluminum.

Filmmakers: Charles and Ray Eames
Running Time: 2:09
Format: color
Multiscreen: Single Strand
Date: 1957 (edited 1991)

Photo: © 1976 Eames Office, LLC (www.eamesoffice.com)

Biographies

“The role of the architect, or the designer, is that of a very good, thoughtful host, all of whose energy goes into trying to anticipate the needs of his guests...”  Charles Eames.

Charles and Ray Eames’ design process embodied the discipline and delight of the guest-host relationship.  Based upon caring, hard work and perseverance, it involved finding and asking the right questions to understand needs, constraints and parameters.  Thinking through connections and details maintained integrity of intent, performance and materials.

Charles and Ray met at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, where Charles was the head of the design department.  Ray had studied painting with Hans Hoffman, and then at Cranbrook assisted Charles and Eero Saarinen in preparing designs for the Museum of Modern Art’s “Organic Furniture Competition”.

Moving to Los Angeles, California in 1941, they continued their furniture design work with molding plywood.  Their molded plywood chair (LCW) was called “the chair of the century” by the influential architectural critic Esther McCoy.  Other examples of their furniture include the molded plastic or fiberglass chairs, the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman, Aluminum Group and Soft Pad Group Chairs for elegant office settings, as well as the Tandem Sling Seating designed for airports and still in use around the world today.

In 1949, Charles and Ray designed and built their own home as part of the Case Study House Program, sponsored by Arts and Architecture Magazine.  Their design and innovative use of materials made this house a mecca  for architects and designers from all over the world.

In the early 1950s, the Eameses extended their interest and skill in photography into filmmaking. They created over eighty-five short films ranging in subjects from toys to the world of Franklin and Jefferson, from simple sea creatures to the explanation of advanced mathematical and scientific concepts.  “Tocatta for Toy Trains” and “Powers of Ten” are two brilliant examples of their skill, creativity and far-reaching interests.

The Eameses also designed numerous museum exhibits for IBM (Mathematica, the 1964 New York World’s Fair, The World of Franklin and Jefferson, Copernicus), the Smithsonian Institution, and others.  They created a huge seven-screen slide show for the Moscow World’s Fair in 1959.

Charles died August 21, 1978.  Ray died ten years later to the day.  The Eames Office still operates today, run by Charles’ daughter, designer Lucia Eames and her children.  The Eames Office releases their designs in furniture, film, video and other media as well as creating new products.