However, new film Eames: The Architect and The Painter, directed by Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey, looks to cast some light on the pair, tracing the couple and their designs from the beginning of the ‘Eames Era’ in the second World War to their continued legacy today.
If you can get past the melodrama of the very American narration from James Franco, it’s a touching an insightful film, showing the couple’s vast and strikingly forward-thinking output.
There are interviews with Charles Eames’ daughter Lucia and grandson, filmmaker Paul Schrader, TED founder Richard Saul Wurman, architect Kevin Roche and former Eames Office designers including Jeannine Oppewall, Deborah Sussman and Gordon Ashby.
As well as many amusing and nostalgic talking heads, which describe the couple as ‘childlike’, their offices as ‘like walking into a circus’ and their legacy as ‘introducing people to a way of looking at the world differently’, there’s some lovely archive footage, and its fascinating to see the wider contest of the Eames’ relationship and way of life.
Though best know for their furniture designs, we see how the Eames’ worked in architecture, exhibitions and film.
A particularly interesting innovation was their ‘information overlaid’ technique, as used in 1959 project Glimpses of the USA. This used thousands of images of American life projected simultaneously on seven enormous screens, and was shown to Russian audiences at the height of the Cold War.
We get a nosey at their incredible ‘prefabricated’ home in Pacific Palisades, California, which the couple created in the late 1940s. The house was a surreal mesh of rectangles with odd accoutrements including a tumbleweed hung from the ceiling. Known to architectural historians as Case Study House Number 8, the house morphed and grew as the coupled lived in and modified the space over the years.
The house became emblematic of a new lifestyle that began to emerge in the West Coast, as ideas and communication became as important to design as manufacturing – concepts spearheaded in no small part by the Eames.
Eames: The Architect and The Painter, directed by Jason Cohn and Bill Jersey is released in the UK on 3 August.