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Charles & Ray Eames – Design Icons of the Last Century

There is no design team more iconic or influential than the husband and wife duo of Charles & Ray Eames – a design powerhouse best known for their groundbreaking contributions to architecture, furniture design, post-war industrial design, films and photographic art.

Charles Eames was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1907 and by the tender age of 14, garnered a love for engineering and drawing while working as a part-time steel hand at a local steel company where he first entertained the idea of studying architecture. Charles went on to briefly study it at the Washington University in St. Louis but spent just 2 years there before leaving prematurely to start up his own practice with two partners – while at the same time, his own influences began to be heavily shaped by Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen – father of the legendary architect and furniture designer Eero Saarinen who would soon become a friend and peer of Charles’.

Charles Eames | Source: Life Magazine Archives

Charles Eames | Source: Life Magazine Archives

And so in 1938, at the invitation of Eliel, Charles moved to Michigan with his wife Catherine and their daughter Lucia to further study architecture at the Cranbrook Academy of Art where he would also meet Bernice Alexander Kaiser who would later become his 2nd wife, Ray Eames.

Charles and Ray Eames

Charles and Ray Eames

Ray Kaiser joined the Academy after studying Painting in New York and met Charles Eames in 1940 while assisting him and Eero Saarinen in preparing designs for the Museum of Modern Art’s (MoMa) “Organic Furniture Competition”.

Both Charles and Eero won the 2 top prizes for their designs, which involved molding plywood into complex curves and it would be very soon after this collaboration when Charles divorced his first wife and married Ray – and they quite simply went on to change the world of interiors as we know it.

After moving to California they continued their design work and experimented further with molding plywood into complex and functional pieces of furniture. They did this by turning their spare room into a workshop, installing a home-made molding machine (which they nicknamed, ‘Kazam’ after the saying; ‘Ala Kazam’) into which they fed wood and glues that Charles snuck home from his day job as a set designer & architect at MGM Studios in Hollywood. Ray in the meantime designed and created covers for California Arts & Architecture Magazine.

Little did Charles and Ray Eames know that their experimenting with wood-molding techniques would have a remarkable and profound effect on the design world – from which would come a commission by the US Navy to produce molded plywood splints (that were molded after Charles’ own leg), stretchers and glider shells that would be successfully used in World War II. And in 1946, when the war had finally ended, the money used from their commission by the Navy enabled the Eames’ to open their first office together and design the “Molded Plywood Chair”. The chair was the basis of the Eames’ design future and was called the “Chair of the Century” by influential architectural critic Esther McCoy and Time Magazine called it “The Best Design of the 20th Century” – noting that it was “something elegant, light and comfortable. Much copied but never bettered.”

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Molded Plywood Chair | Source:DesignCrave.com

To the amusement of the Design world, a locomotive came in second to the Eames Plywood Chair.

In Europe, as is it today, production of all Eames furniture is helmed by the Herman Miller Inc. while in the America, Vitra International produces their furniture.

After plywood, the Eames’ began to experiment with other materials, creating furniture in fiberglass, plastic, aluminum and for the 1956 Eames’ Lounge Chair & Ottoman, leather and very opulent plywood. The Lounge Chair & Ottoman became an icon of the last century even though Charles expressed a preference for the Eames’ earlier, less expensive plywood designs.

The Molded Plastic Chair / Armchair with an Eiffel Tower or Wooden Leg base, the Wire Mesh Chair, the Hang It All Rack, the Plywood Coffee Table, the Storage Unit Shelving System, the Elliptical Table (Surfboard Table) and the Walnut Stool are just some of their other iconic designs, which continue to be their most recognizable. The Eames’ also made a series of aluminum office furniture which unknown to a lot of people are probably in use in their own offices and many of today’s office furniture designs take their roots and inspiration from original Eames’ designs for the office under the Herman Miller brand.

But, it must be said that their most notable contribution to architecture is in the Eames House in Los Angeles, which they designed and built as part of the Case Study Program in 1949 for Arts and Architecture Magazine. Out of the 25 Case Study Houses built, the Eames House is considered the most successful as an architectural statement of post-war residences built with innovative and economical materials as well as being noted as a comfortable, functional living space that blends man-made materials and nature. Their work as a design team remained the center of their lives in their partnership. The combination of visionary design and ingenuity that allowed Charles & Ray Eames to create proto-types of mass produced furniture in their spare room was to characterize their work together for over the next 4 decades. Together, they not only designed some of the most influential and innovative furniture of the 20th century, but through their films, teaching, writing and their life together in the house they designed in Los Angeles, they defined an open, organic, emotionally expressive approach to design and lifestyle.

The Eames House

The Eames House | Source: Eames Office

Eames House Interior

Eames House Interior | Source: Eames Office

Eames House Interior | Source: Herman Miller

Charles Eames died on the 21st of August 1978 in Los Angeles after which Ray Eames devoted the rest of her life to completing their unfinished projects without seeking new ones and to communicating their ideas through writing and talks. Ray Eames died exactly 10 years to the day from her husband; 21st August 1988.

The Eames’ Office continues with their grandson Demetrios Eames at its helm.

The Case Study House Program

The Case Study House Program was a residential and architectural effort which ran from 1945 – 1966.

Conceived by the editor and publisher of Arts & Architecture magazine, John Entenza – a true stalwart of Modernism – the program enlisted high profile architects of the time, garnering 36 blueprints of homes that were scheduled for construction. While not all 36 prototype homes were built, contributors included Charles & Ray Eames, Pierre Koenig, Eero Saatinen, Richard Neutra and other architect luminaries of the time.

House-22-The-Stahl-House

House #22-The Stahl House

Their brief was simple – to design and build affordable and efficient homes for the American housing boom that was the result of the millions of American soldiers returning home at the end of World War II and the home shortage after the Great Depression. Entenza insisted too that; “Each house must be capable of duplication and in no sense be an individual performance” and that “the overall program will be general enough to be of practical assistance to the average American in search of a home in which he can afford to live.”

Cleverly using the success of his avant-garde magazine, Entenza’s plan was to allow for the architect to design and build low-cost modern homes using materials donated by the industry and manufacturers and in turn, extensively publicised their efforts in the magazine. This exchange also allowed for critical dialogue between mass builders and construction entities with architectural rock-stars of the era.

By 1948, the first 6 homes were built, mostly in Los Angeles, some in the San Francisco Bay Area and one in Phoenix Arizona. These homes are still standing today and continue to attract visitors to their iconic status of the then ‘Home Of The American Future’ brief. A number of the homes which were completed were featured in Arts & Architecture magazine, with black & white photographs by iconic architectural photographer Julius Shulman.

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House #8 The Eames House

What began as an experiment in modern housing prototypes, the 36 designs of the Case Study House Program remain an inspiration to modern architects of today and by the end of 1966, had succeeded in producing the world’s most significant works of residential architecture which remain relevant till today in terms of materials, structure and form.

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House #9-Eames and Saarinen House

House #21-The Koenig House

House #21-The Koenig House

 

Shinola Watches: The Rambler GMT

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Hand-built in Detroit and designed for travel, the Rambler GMT is Shinola’s first dedicated travel watch.

Features include an all-new Detroit-built Argonite 515.24H movement and a 24-hour hand and turning topring bezel for keeping accurate time when traveling across time zones

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The 44-millimeter stainless steel case with screw-down crown is water resistant to 100 meters. Like all Shinola watches, The Rambler features a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and comes fitted with a handcrafted strap designed to gain character over time and distance.

Every Shinola watch is guaranteed for life under the terms and conditions of their warranty, the Shinola guarantee.

Early brand adopter and watch enthusiast Peter von Panda tells his story of his love affair with the Rambler GMT here

Shop at their UK shop here

[DESIGN.LIGHT] Eileen Gray

The DESIGN.LIGHT series is a Ledge-Mag specific showcase of the most of influential designers and artists that have inspired, and are inspiring.

For some, it will be about the stuff you already know about and yet for others, it will be an introduction to the commentary of unstructured layers that lie beneath the everyday routine of life as we know it, exposing the people who best describe the everyday routine of life as we know it, in that indefinable manner that best represent their work.

The 1st in the series of DESIGN.LIGHT is architect and furniture designer Eileen Gray.

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Eileen Gray in her rue de Bonaparte apartment with the Brick Screen in 1970

Regarded as one of the most influential female designers of the early 20th century, Irish architect and furniture designer Eileen Gray lived for nearly a century as one of the most overlooked geniuses within her industry and of her time. Her work inspired what we recognize as Modernism and the Art Deco period while she stoically remained void of any preconceived “movement” that was the order of the day amongst the elitist male-dominated industry of her time.

Even as one of the first women accepted to study at the prestigious Slade School of Art in 1898, Gray continued to be excluded from the seemingly boys-only design and architecture movements that formed many of the design processes that existed in the early 20th century.

As an interior decorator she was prolific in decorating some of the most iconic homes in Europe and as a furniture designer, the two best-loved and most recognizable pieces of furniture she contributed to design was her innovative Bibendum Chair and the unmistakable E-1027 circular table.

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E-1027 Side Table

 

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The Bibendum Chair

Gray is also a pioneer in the field of lacquer design, wandering into the then unknown and delicate art form after a visit to a lacquer repair shop in Soho in London. Her geometric lacquer screens have transcended effortlessly over all periods and remains in a place all it’s own, with no other designer following after her or having as much impact on design in the field of lacquer design as Eileen Gray did.

Gray continued her life in Paris and worked well into her 90s and sadly it is said that the first time she ever garnered a radio broadcast was only to announce her demise.

Here, we celebrate some of Eileen Gray’s greatest contributions to the world of Architecture and Furniture Design.

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Brick Screen

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e1027 House Interiors

e1027 House Interiors

Images via ARAM and Segolene Artsvisuels

Vanilla Bikes. Portland, Oregon.

Each and every  bicycle frame is built for a purpose. Through this site, we hope to widen the perspectives of any cyclist and rider by introducing beautiful bicycles.

It is also the process and story behind each frame that makes us tick and LEDGE is committed in leading that search for our readers.

Let us begin with Vanilla Bicycles. 

From Commuter, Cross, Road, Randonneur, Touring & Track Bikes down to Forks. Owner, designer and bicycle framebuilder Sacha White has these babies to show.

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A Commuter Bike

 

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Another Commuter Bike

On their website, The Vanilla Workshop has introduced themselves as a community — a collaboration between master fabricators; expert bicycle painters; photographers; wood, leather, fabric and metal workers–all working closely to bring the intelligent, edgy, sexiness of Portland to the rest of the world.

A Track Bike

A Track Bike

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A Road Bike

A Touring Bike

A Touring Bike

And that they have. At the heart of a outstanding workshop is owner, designer and bicycle framebuilder Sacha White. Here’s my personal favourite.

A Randonneur Bike

Sacha started building bicycles in the winter of 1999. Now, at just 31 years of age, Sacha is a pioneering member of the new generation of framebuilders. He brings his own experiences as a cyclist and craftsman into the mix to create a bike and a company that reflect the values of hard work, style and uncompromised vision.

 

 

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For a good insight, there is a 10 minute ‘Buttered Muffin documentary’ which can give you some insight into the community.

If you’d like your custom build from Sacha, be prepared to wait as his current orders span a few years. To find out more about the ordering process, check out their link here.

And if you’re just itching to get some new Vanilla merchandise, head to their online store Boutique.vanillabicycles.com.

 

Wanderlust by Hoefler&Co | Travel / Luggage Fonts

When a font agency called Hoefler & Co. owns and runs the domain http://www.typography.com, you know they’re a top dog in the Typeface Universe.

Aptly found at http://discover.typography.comWanderlust is a combined display theme comprising of 7 type variations.

wanderlust by H&Co

wanderlust by H&Co

tungsten

tungsten

Tungsten = ‘That rarest of species, Tungsten is a compact and sporty sans serif that’s disarming instead of pushy: not just loud, but persuasive’

gotham

gotham

Gotham = ‘Every designer has admired the no-nonense letters of the urban environment. From these humble beginnings comes Gotham, a hard-working typeface for the ages’

Knockout

Knockout

Knockout = ‘A sweeping collection of 32 sans serifs, Knockout restores some much-needed vitality to an overlooked corner of the typographic spectrum.’

numbers

numbers

Numbers = ‘H&Co’s Numbers collection revives 16 styles of everyday numbering, inspired by everyday objects from playing cards to dollar bills’

verlag

verlag

 Verlag = ‘A family of 30 sans serifs that brings a welcome eloquence to the can-do sensibility of pre-war Modernism’

forza

forza

Forza = ‘Succinct geometries make for an expressive type family that’s ardent, disciplined, shrewd, and commanding.’

Idlewild

Idlewild

Idlewild =  An industrious sans serif that evokes space-age optimism, Idlewild is spare and tranquil, speaking in hushed but captivating tones.

Each of these fonts are available for purchase on http://www.typography.com, with prices varying from web use only, to 1 – 250 computers, or more.

The Lounge Chair Atelier at VitraHaus, Weil am Rhein

The VitraHaus, built by Herzong & de Meuron, is Vitra’s flagship store and home to the Vitra Home Collection, where the great Vitra classic and latest contemporary designs.

VitraHaus

The VitraHuas

If you happen to be in Weil am Rhein, Germany, it’s definitely worth a look to be inspired for your home, explore design palates you hadn’t thought of (in particular, the remote ones) , and perhaps emerging with a design aesthetic that couldn’t be farther of – but you love it.

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Level4_Loft_April 2012

Their showroom spans over four floors , a Lounge Chair Atelier, Inspiration & Consultation rooms and a Cafe , with frequent VitraHaus display changes  and new Vitra products continuously been added to the tour.

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VitraHaus Inspirations 1_Level2_Family Area

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But this is where the magic happens for us: their Lounge Chair Atelier.

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“The Lounge Chair Atelier gives you the chance to watch a stage of the chair’s production. Here you can witness the craftsmanship that goes into the Vitra design classic – the Lounge Chair – which was designed by Charles & Ray Eames in 1956. In the VitraHaus, you can configure your own Lounge Chair & Ottoman with a selection of leathers, wooden shells and grains – and watch your own personal one-of-a-kind original be put together.

An open workshop forms the centrepiece of the Vitra Atelier. It has been relocated from the company’s private production premises to the public campus area. Beginning with the story behind this icon of modern furniture design – produced by Vitra with the same care and precision for more than 50 years – the Vitra Atelier opens up various perspectives. It gives visitors the opportunity to witness materials being used, individual production tasks, as well as the longevity and sustainability of the design, which remains as cutting edge today as it ever was.

If at the VitraHaus you decide to purchase an Eames Lounge Chair and to have it made in the Lounge Chair Atelier, the chair will be given a special label that shows that it was made there. Later, it will be delivered to your door. ”

 | Opening hours|

Ray-Eames-Str. 1
D-79576 Weil am Rhein
Mon-Sun: 10am-6pm

| Contact information |

+49 (0)7621 702 3500
vitrahaus@vitra.com

via: VITRA.COM

Radiomir by Officine Panerai

The Radiomir is the brand’s first watch prototype in 1936, born to meet the military needs of the Royal Italian Navy.

Its namesake is a radium-based powder patented by Panerai on 23 March 1916, one that gives the dial luminosity and maximum visibility in sighting instruments and devices, even in the hardest conditions. This history of innovation marked the beginning of many future patents by the brand.

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1916 – OFFICINE PANERAI FILES THE RADIOMIR PATENT

1936 THE FIRST RADIOMIR PROTOTYPE

1936-THE FIRST RADIOMIR PROTOTYPE

1938-RADIOMIR DIALS INNOVATE

1938-RADIOMIR DIALS INNOVATE

RADIOMIR 1940 CASE

RADIOMIR 1940 CASE

Distinguished by the structure of its iconic cushion shape, it ensured a particularly high degree of water-resistance through its conical screw-down winding crown and screw back.

As observed, today’s Radiomir selection retains much of the heritage of the 1940 original…with our top 5 selections below. We are such a fan of their classic, squeaky-clean simplicity!

RADIOMIR

RADIOMIR COMPOSITE ®

 

RADIOMIR 3 DAYS GMT

RADIOMIR 3 DAYS GMT

RADIOMIR BLACK SEAL

RADIOMIR BLACK SEAL CERAMICA

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RADIOMIR BLACK SEAL

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RADIOMIR ORO ROSSO 

You may view the entire selection of Radiomirs on Officine Panerai’s official website here. 

Images via Panerai.com

Singapore’s New National Gallery: Southeast Asian Art Museum

The National Gallery Singapore | Source: YouTube

Recently opened on the 24th of November, the National Gallery of Singapore, is the first of its scale and kind for the South-east Asian art in the region. But what makes it so iconic is not only its leading cultural inspiration, but the preservation of two key buildings in Singapore’s history; the former Supreme Court and the City Hall.

The duo have been combined by the architects in a unique roof and linkway design to bridge the buildings into one large form, creating a grand yet dramatic entrance; the tree-like canopy roof design compares directly to the trees in the city of Singapore.

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The facade of the National Gallery Singapore | Source: www.straitstimes.com

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The entrance foyer of the Gallery

The restoration of these two historic buildings is priceless to the Singapore heritage. Take the big town hall in the City Hall, which became to be known as the surrender hall. The Japanese surrendered in that space, making it so important to preserve. Original finishings and ornaments are visually identified that the intent was to revitalise this invaluable structure. What the architect has achieved is unmeasurable, in particular how it has brought new contemporary use. This duality of conserving heritage, yet bringing new use to the building comes at great cost. But executed correctly, it is an intangible value of how heritage can be perceived and preserved.

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The Rotunda at the Supreme Court Terrace

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PS. There is an amazing view at the bars atop the new gallery and look out for these details that CNA has pointed out!

The National Gallery Singapore: 10 Must-See Features | Source: YouTube

Deciding what is Heritage

How do we decide what is worth saving? Culture? Nature? Events? Site?

Singapore Old Stamford Road Library

Today, I will write a bit about heritage viewed through the lens of the built environment. Architecture is a social device that can be used to demonstrate the social views of the governing body of the country. However, in a culturally-rich country such as the UK, has recently seen an alarming decline of the Modernist Brutalism style. A style which was developed from an architectural circle that was very heavily influenced by the concept of utopia. It was a dream for these architects that their buildings could solve the struggles of humankind. However, Brutalism, is a style that tends to be considered unpopular and ugly today, most especially its proponents liberal use of raw, exposed concrete.

The Collonade Condominium, Singapore | Source: ArchDaily

The controversy surrounding these Modern buildings create new philosophical and technical challenges, such as the balancing of design intention and historic fabric between problems that were raised from the experimental (and failed) ideas and technologies. More importantly, they represent a time of progressive social ambitions of the post-war welfare state in UK. We begin this discussion through the “intangible” heritage that needs to be formally recognised. I begin this series to inform, and hope to inspire a kind of thinking that evaluates heritage through the conceptual lens of the “intangible”.

Saving Brutalist Architecture-1

Robin Hood Gardens, London | Source: ResearchGate

This series forms as an extension of my dissertation research, which focused on venerable Brutalist Architecture. In particular, Robin Hood Gardens, London, a Brutalist social housing estate built to the post-war designs of Alison and Peter Smithson. Robin Hood Gardens, London, is a Brutalist social housing estate built to the post-war designs of Alison and Peter Smithson. It has recently been set for demolition but there is hope from the experience at a direct comparison, the Park Hill Estate.

The dissertation argues how the present-day treatment of Modernist housing blocks needs to be rethought, in particular with the loss of tangible and intangible heritage. Through the lessons learnt from contemporary refurbishments to other buildings: five interlinked points on how to create a positive future for Robin Hood Gardens and other threatened estates.

First, all venerable housing blocks should be listed, to disallow easy removal for intangible heritage to be realised.

Second, the physical state of the building does not necessarily represent the intangible value, whose values cannot be defined by conventional means.

Third, as a concept to keep part of the the physical fabric to visually remind of the past.

Fourth, it is argued, that architecture is adaptable to its situation.

Fifth, a concept is laid to preserve the controversy, that will continue to build a comprehensive social context.

Images via Archdaily and NLB