Charles (1907–1978) and Ray (1912–1988) Eames (pronounced /ˈiːmz/) were American designers, married in 1941, who worked and made major contributions in many fields of design including industrial design, furniture design, art, graphic design, film & architecture.
Charles Ormond Eames, Jr (June 17, 1907 – August 21, 1978) was born in 1907 in Saint Louis, Missouri. Charles was born the nephew of St. Louis architect William S. Eames. By the time he was 14 years old, while attending high school, Charles worked at the Laclede Steel Company as a part-time laborer, where he learned about engineering, drawing, and architecture (and also first entertained the idea of one day becoming an architect).
Charles briefly studied architecture at Washington University in St. Louis on an architectural scholarship. In 1930, Charles began his own architectural practice in St. Louis with partner Charles Gray. They were later joined by a third partner, Walter Pauley. Charles Eames was greatly influenced by the Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen (whose son Eero, also an architect, would become a partner and friend)
In 1941, Charles married his Cranbrook colleague Ray Kaiser. They then moved to Los Angeles, California, where they would work and live for the rest of their lives. In the late 1940s, as part of the Arts & Architecture magazine's "Case Study" program, Ray and Charles designed and built the groundbreaking Eames House, Case Study House #8, as their home. Located upon a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and hand-constructed within a matter of days entirely of pre-fabricated steel parts intended for industrial construction, it remains a milestone of modern architecture.
In 1970–71, Charles Eames gave the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard University. At the lectures, the Eames viewpoint and philosophy are related through Charles' own telling of what he called the banana leaf parable, a banana leaf being the most basic dish off which to eat in southern India. He related the progression of design and its process where the banana leaf is transformed into something fantastically ornate. He explains the next step and ties it to the design process by finishing the parable with:
- "But you can go beyond that and the guys that have not only means, but a certain amount of knowledge and understanding, go the next step and they eat off of a banana leaf. And I think that in these times when we fall back and regroup, that somehow or other, the banana leaf parable sort of got to get working there, because I'm not prepared to say that the banana leaf that one eats off of is the same as the other eats off of, but it's that process that has happened within the man that changes the banana leaf. And as we attack these problems—and I hope and I expect that the total amount of energy used in this world is going to go from high to medium to a little bit lower—the banana leaf idea might have a great part in it."