Charles Eames

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St. Louis, Missouri
Birth Sign
St. Louis, Missouri

Charles Ormond Eames Jr., together with his wife and associate Ray Eames, holds a prominent place in the history of postwar American design and is often regarded as one of the most influential designers of the twentieth century. His films and multi-media presentations, as well as his architecture and exhibition designs, brought him international acclaim. Eames’ work is respected now not only by architects and designers, but also by postmodernists. The goods of Charles and Ray Eames appealed to consumers who want contemporary designs and imagery yet found much modernist design to be cold and impersonal. His belief in the critical role of technology never wavered, and he had a vision of life made better through design and technology. In the postwar years, Eames was instrumental in making modernism acceptable to non-elite Americans. His work demonstrates a dynamic synthesis of aesthetic, technical, and intellectual issues. His workshop has been dubbed a “Renaissance workshop” and “a designer’s paradise.”

Childhood and Adolescence

He was the younger of his parents’ two children, Charles Sr., a railway security officer, and his wife Adele. He went to Yeatman High School, where he became interested in architecture. He then moved on to work for Laclede Steel, where he learned about engineering, sketching, and architecture.

On a scholarship, he enrolled at Washington University in St. Louis to study architecture. He, on the other hand, dropped out after two years. According to others, he was fired because of his support for Frank Lloyd Wright and his interest in modern architects. The fact that he worked as an architect at Trueblood and Graf also contributed to his dismissal. He decided to leave because he couldn’t spend enough time on both his studies and his work.

Charles Eames’s Career

He founded his own architectural business in St. Louis with partner Charles Gray in 1930 and later added Walter Pauley as a third partner. He received a fellowship at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, where he later became the dean of the design department, as a result of his continued success.

He met Eero Saarinen there, with whom he created prize-winning furniture for the ‘Organic Furniture Competition’ at the Museum of Modern Art by molding plywood into intricate curves and motifs. He also met Ray Kaiser, who became his wife and business partner after assisting him in his design.

He and his wife, Ray Kaiser Eames, went to California in 1941 and continued their design work by molding plywood. They were commissioned by the Navy to make molded plywood splints, stretchers, and experimental glider shells during WWII.

They launched their own furniture name, ‘Eameses’ molded plywood furniture, in 1946. Esther McCoy, an architectural critic, dubbed their molded plywood chair “the chair of the century.” Herman Miller Inc. in the United States later bought the production and still owns it now.
They expanded their business and collaboration by launching a branch in Europe, where production rights were transferred to a firm called ‘Vitra International.’

In his office, which he ran for over four decades, he employed a lot of notable designers. Henry Beer, Richard Foy, Harry Bertoia, and Gregory Ain were among the cast members. The molded-plywood DCW (Dining Chair Wood) and DCM (Dining Chair Metal with a plywood seat) (1945), the Eames Lounge Chair (1956), the Aluminum Group furniture (1958), the Eames Chaise (1968), the whimsical Do-Nothing Machine (1957), and toys were among the many inventive ideas that evolved.

From 1970-to 71, he conducted a series of ‘The Charles Eliot Norton lectures,’ an annual lectureship at Harvard University, when he introduced his ‘banana leaf parable’ notion.

His Major Projects

As part of the ‘case study’ program sponsored by the ‘Arts and Architecture magazine, Charles and Ray Eames planned and built their own home in Pacific Palisades, California in 1949. The Eames house, as it is known, was hand-built using pre-fabricated steel pieces intended for industrial construction and is regarded as one of the most notable post-war dwellings in the world.

He and his wife made the short film ‘Traveling Boy’ (1950) to highlight their interests 1950. The clip depicts the methods used in the manufacture of furniture. In 1977, they released ‘Powers of Ten.’ By visually zooming away from the Earth to the edge of the universe, and then microscopically zooming into the nucleus of a carbon atom, this animation provides a striking representation of orders of magnitude.

His debut exhibition, ‘Mathematica: A World of Numbers…and Beyond,’ was sponsored by IBM and opened in 1961. This was a watershed moment in the history of science popularization exhibitions. ‘A computer perspective: Background to the Computer Age’ (1971) and ‘The world of Franklin and Jefferson’ (1972) came soon after (1975-77).

Achievements & Awards

For his aesthetically creative documentary film, ‘The Fabulous Fifties,’ he earned an ‘Emmy Award’ in 1960. It had animated sequences, musical segments, and short narrations by Henry Fonda, Jackie Gleason, and Leora Dana, among others.
For his achievements in the realm of design development, he was awarded the ‘Kaufmann Industrial Design Award’ in 1961.

He was awarded the ‘American Institute of Architects Award’ in 1977 for his remarkable contribution to the profession of architecture.
In 1979, the Royal Institute of British Architects gave him the Queen’s gold medal for architecture in appreciation of his significant contribution to international architecture.

The ‘Industrial Designer’s Society of America’ honored him as ‘Most Influential Designer of the 20th Century’ in 1985.
For his contribution to American culture through architecture, he has a star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

Personal History and Enduring Legacy

He married Catherine Woermann, whom he met at Washington University, in 1929. Lucia Jenkins, their daughter, was born a year later. After his affair with a coworker, the couple split in 1941.
Ray Kaiser, whom he met at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, married in 1941. They married at a friend’s house in Chicago and promptly relocated to Los Angeles to begin their married life and profession.

Ray finished their unfinished projects and worked on a book about their work after Charles died. She also donated a large number of their belongings to the Library of Congress.
Lucia Eames founded the Eames Foundation to preserve and protect the Eames House and to provide educational opportunities honoring her parents’ accomplishments. The Eames House was designated as a “National Historic Landmark” and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.

In 2008, the United States Postal Service issued a 16-stamp series celebrating Charles and Ray Eames’ work. Their contributions to architecture, furniture design, industry, and photography were recognized in this collection.
The Eames century modern typeface was produced by House Industries in 2009 to reflect the Eames aesthetics.

There are 26 typefaces in all, including an 18-style text family with italics, 9 figure styles, 4 numeral fonts, and a smart ornaments font.

Estimated Net worth

Charles is one of the wealthiest architects and one of the most well-known. Charles Eames’ net worth is estimated to be $13 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.


He received a fellowship to study architecture at Cranbrook Academy of Art for his design of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Helena, Arkansas.
At the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, he designed the IBM pavilion.