By Alice Morby
A room filled with furniture experimentations and a display designed specifically for children are among the four different zones making up a huge Eames retrospective currently on show at the Vitra Design Museum.
An Eames Celebration spans across four areas of the Frank Gehry-designed Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany: the museum’s main building, the Fire Station, the Vitra Design Museum Gallery and the Vitra Schaudepot.
Collectively, the exhibitions are intended to offer a comprehensive overview of the careers of husband-and-wife team Ray and Charles Eames.
The pair are considered to be two of the most influential designers of the 20th century, having produced some of the most famous furniture pieces in modern design history, and the exhibition coincides with the 110th anniversary of Charles Eames’ birth.
The biggest of the four shows, named The Power of Design, is situated inside the main building of the design museum, and explores the Eames’ work through a number of films, photographs, furniture, drawings, sculptures, paintings, textiles, graphic design, models and stage props.
“The retrospective illustrates the congenial synergy between the personalities of Charles and Ray Eames, which formed the foundation of a lifetime of work by what was arguably the most successful design duo in history,” said Vitra Design Museum.
Named Kazam! The Furniture Experiments of Charles & Ray Eames, this section features previously-unseen experimental models that have been stored in the Vitra Design Museum’s archives since 1988.
Kazam refers to a hot press machine that the designers used to mould plywood, so named because of its “magical” ability to create seat shells from flat panels.
“Models and prototypes of furniture bases made of steel wire or aluminium demonstrate how many stages a design had to progress through before it was finally ready for mass production,” said the museum.
“Charles and Ray Eames’ comprehensive view of the designer’s task is exemplified by the wide array of tools they constructed for ergonomic research or for the fabrication of their experimental furniture.”
The vast retrospective also caters for younger Eames fans, with an exhibition designed specifically for children named Play Parade.
In this zone, children are invited to play with toys designed – or owned – by the duo, including modular construction sets, animal masks, and spinning tops.
“The exhibition demonstrates how seriously Charles and Ray Eames regarded their work and experiments with toys, and how play can be an important source of creativity – as they proved with their own designs,” said the museum.
“Objects from their personal collection of toys reach further back in history, exposing today’s children to the cultural history of play and allowing them to test the timeless quality of these toys.”
The final section making up An Eames Celebration, Ideas and Information, is located in the Zaha Hadid-designed Fire Station and is dedicated to films shot by the couple over the course of their careers.
“With this exhibition, the cinematic oeuvre of the Eameses is given due recognition for the first time as a key part of their overall work,” said the museum.
“Ideas and Information highlights the significance of Charles and Ray Eames as pioneers of innovative media technologies and new forms of knowledge transmission.”
An Eames Celebration is on show at the Vitra Design Museum until 25 February 2018.
The Eames’ careers have also recently been celebrated by high street brand Uniqlo, through a clothing collection that includes multicoloured slippers and T-shirts decorated with Wire chair prints.
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