The boundaries between home and studio, yard and house, leisure and labor overlapped as a matter of principle in the lives of the Eames, who lived by their mantra, “Life in work.” As seen in the extensive documentation of the exterior views of the Eames at home, the Case Study House #8 was a proving ground for the lifestyle of mid-century Modernist idealism. The original plan placed the house at the center of the property, but in the static time between ordering and delivery of materials, stretched out several years due to wartime materials shortage bans, the Eames’ had learned to love and use the surrounding meadow.
It is a place that is seemingly suspended in time, and a site for performance of a not-so-everyday life, where childlike fascinations could be aired out in the meadow with picnics and outrageous paper constructions. The meadow served as a mental blank, a non-space where time slows alongside the cycles of nature. It was fairly radical in the canon of modernism that Charles and Ray listened to the meadow at all. This is how Charles and Eero Saarinen’s original plan was abandoned; and how the meadow demanded and won its sovereignty.
Ray made gardens of things, using the house as a scaffold for the display of “primitive” folk art objects and textiles, piled upon clean furniture design harkening back to their own industrial design studio. Displays of the collected objects formed miniature gardens, organized in totemic arrays to perform narratives. According to Esther McCoy, Ray “… was something of a sorceress, someone who could raise commonplace things to importance or bring esoteric ones to a first name familiarity … She was at home with the tangible.”
The landscape and architecture of the Eames Case Study House will be used to ask the following: How has modern design insinuated itself within the vernacular and natural environment? Can the gaps between now and then acts as sites of re-inscription? Can they be “weeded” for inspiration? The objects and environments under consideration here embody thought processes as “thinking through things,” no longer static but transubstantiated to become vessels for dialogues about nature, craft, and workmanship.
I will resituate the language of innovation as not being rooted in its materials, which is the typical tactic, but in the spontaneous negotiation the house carries out with the environment in which it is found.