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February 15, 2010
Adding another page to their clever marketing playbook, the tastemaking collective at House Industries have organized an exclusive sunset tour of the iconic Eames House in Pacific Palisades, California, next month. The salesman's hook is that they're sharing the experience with three lucky winners selected from a pool of their catalog subscribers. The occasion is to promote the release of the Delaware type foundry's new Eames Century Modern font collection, due out March 11th.

"Sitting high atop the Pacific Palisades and overlooking Santa Monica and the Pacific Ocean," the House Industries crew fawns, the Eames House "is still recognized as a revolutionary use of space and materials." And just think, in less than a month you could be strolling around inside with members of the Eames family. For free. "We are going to time the release with sunset in the Pacific Palisades," says House Industries owner Rich Roat. "How poetic."

Built more than half a century ago, the structure known as The Eames House originated as the eighth project in a series of Case Studies on design, sponsored by Arts & Architecture magazine in the mid-1940s. The concept for the home was proposed by Charles Eames, an architect, and his wife Ray, a designer and filmmaker. The couple had a deeply collaborative relationship (the Eames Lounge Chair is just one of the benchmark works they created together), and they envisioned the home as a new type of free-flowing, multi-tasking hybrid that could double as residence and workspace without an undue amount of fuss. As the Eames Foundation, the group that maintains the house, puts it, "the home they designed would be for a married couple who were basically apartment dwellers working in design and graphic arts, and who wanted a home that would make no demands for itself, but would, instead serve as a background for as Charles would say, 'life in work' with nature as a 'shock absorber'." Simply put, the Eameses designed it for themselves.

Eames Case Study House No. 8 image by Carolee Mitchell, used under a Creative Commons license.

Initial plans for the building were drawn up by Charles Eames and his friend and fellow architect Eero Saarinen in 1945, but due to the delay in obtaining materials as a result of WWII construction was put off and the design was eventually changed. The re-configured house, officially a design of the Eameses, was finally constructed during the summer of 1949. Charles and Ray Eames moved in on December 25th of that year, settling in for a remarkable and canonic career that would cover the rest of their lives (Charles lived until August 21, 1978, and Ray died exactly ten years later).

Charles Eames and Saarinen would collaborate again on Case Study House #9, located next door and named for Arts & Architecture's director and Case Study creator John Entenza, but it is the Eames House that is the more celebrated of the two Case Studies, and it is revered as much for its contents and history as for its design. In 2006 the Eames House, which Architecture Week's Great Buildings profile calls a "modern aesthetic of light elegant assembly from standard industrial elements," was designated a National Historic Landmark.

Eames Case Study House No. 8 image by Carolee Mitchell, used under a Creative Commons license.

Charles and Ray Eames have attained a certain degree of design celebrity over the years, and their home is a primary example of the reasons why. "Some aspects of it are pretty cool," says Seattle-based designer Claude Breithaupt. "The steel makes for a really light feeling, open structure, and with the paneled infill is reminiscent of Japanese wood and paper construction," he says of the building's configuration. Breithaupt also points out that the Eameses were also well aware of the context in which the home would be placed, and planned accordingly. "Great construction for the climate, giving lots of natural light and ventilation, which makes for the really nice interior space."

While self-guided outdoor tours of the Eames House property are available for the cost of a donation to support the site's upkeep, a gander inside the house and studio such as the House Industries camp are offering is a real rarity. Especially when one considers that it is for free--indoor tours of the house are given once a year to Eames Foundation Members only, and the rights to a ground floor interior tour will set you back $500 (to see the interior and the studio, you'll need to pony up for a $5000 membership).

In 2007 House Industries and Eames Office collaborated on solid maple and walnut models of the Eames House. Fewer than a dozen were made.

The House Industries-sponsored tours of Eames House will be guided by Charles and Ray Eames's grandchildren, Eames Demetrios and Lucia Atwood. The plan is to take full advantage of the Pacific views during the twilight and sunset hours, between 5pm and 7:30pm, on March 11th, 2010. In addition to the private tours for the contest winners, there will be a release party and exhibition opening at the Eames Office in Santa Monica on the same night. The exhibition runs from then until April 10th, and will find the Eames Office Gallery converted to "a three-dimensional tactile typographical experience."

To have your name considered for this unique event, fill out a request form for the House Industries catalog (which is rather fetching in itself) or sending a postcard or letter to their offices. Details for both avenues can be found here. The drawing will take place on Friday, February 19th (apparently you can enter up until the 18th), and the three lucky winners will be notified within four days.

SEE ALSO: www.houseind.com
SEE ALSO: www.eamesfoundation.org

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Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.

See other articles by Eric J Herboth.

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