The World of Charles & Ray Eames at C-Mine in Belgium

A Front Row Seat to Eames Chairs

By Órlaith Moore

The vivacious, curvaceous molded plywood and fiberglass shells that define the most iconic chair designs of Charles and Ray Eames—along with an array of the dynamic duo’s other multifaceted projects—are currently on view in Genk, Belgium, now through May 28th. And fans of the Eameses, like us, couldn’t be more delighted. Of course, the Eameses created the most famous seating collections of the 20th century. But The World of Charles & Ray Eames portrays its subjects as so much more than just talented furniture designers; this globetrotting exhibition spotlights the legacy of the studio’s ethos, imagination, and experimentation as an ongoing source of inspiration generation after generation.

“Charles and Ray Eames remain relevant today not only because of the work they produced but also due to the thinking that underpinned their attitude toward design and life,” says Catherine Ince, the exhibition’s original curator when it kicked off at the Barbican in London in 2015. “Their approach to creativity was very broad, and the multidisciplinary nature of the Eames Office is something many practices emulate today… The Eameses’ work was driven by a desire to address the problems facing society at the time and sought to respond creatively to advances in technology, science, and communications theory. This sensitivity to context—along with a deep understanding of the connections between things and the ability, to quote the Eameses themselves, to ‘think of things in relation to each other’—shaped the Eameses’ far-reaching worldview.”

Endlessly fascinated by new materials and new methods of production, the Eameses aspired to create “the simple thing of getting the best to the greatest number of people for the least.” Early on, they recognized that molding materials could streamline production, from the molded plywood splints they produced during WWII and their LCW Chairs (1945), to the molded fiberglass La Chaise (1948) and DAX Armchair (1948), the later of which realized their dream of creating a single-shell seating solution. In the 1950s, the Eameses developed one of their most lux designs, the Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman (1956). Inspired by the traditional 19th-century club chair, this generously sized lounger envelops the sitter like, in the words of the Eameses’ grandson Eames Demetrios, “a well-used baseball mitt.” While the use of rosewood and leather in this piece may represent an uncharacteristic foray into the sumptuous for the Eameses, the Eames Lounge nevertheless exhibits an unwavering commitment to reduction and rationality. The integrity inherent in every Eames Office design has kept consumers coming back; nearly all of the Eameses’ chair designs have remained in continuous production with Vitra and Herman Miller since the midcentury.

Beyond furniture, Charles and Ray Eames also explored the worlds of architecture, military manufacturing, photography, filmmaking, toy design, graphic design, and education to great success. They were dedicated to improving the living standards of postwar American society, and nowhere is their purposeful yet soulful approach to living more evident than in their own home. The Eames House, as it is known, was designed and prefabricated to be endlessly adaptable to suit the couple’s needs. It was bright, colorful, informal, and filled with simple off-the-shelf furnishings alongside crafts collected during their world travels.

With more than 380 objects, images, and installations on view, The World of Charles and Ray Eames offers a front row seat to some of the world’s most influential design ideas. Alongside a full program of guest speakers and guided tours, the exhibition organizers have encouraged local enthusiasts to contribute—including a vintage Eames pop-up shop hosted by our lovely Pamono vendor Vintage Village.

The exhibition's current Belgian venue offers the perfect backdrop to appreciate what the Eameses were all about. Genk is a small town in the Flanders region, traditionally tied to coal mining. Since the industry died out, the city has worked to repurpose the mines, and in 2005 the Winterslag mine was transformed into an artistic center and creative hub, now dubbed C-Mine. According to the city’s mayor, Wim Dries, who spoke at the exhibition’s opening, “The Eameses are pioneers in the democratization of design; user-centered design for all. That fits the DNA of the city of Genk and C-mine so well, reaching out to every ‘user’ of the city. The Eameses’ legacy of design for all is truly an inspiration for C-mine, the city of Genk, and without a doubt for everyone who pays a visit to The World of Charles and Ray Eames.”

The World of Charles & Ray Eames runs February 18-May 28, 2017, at C-Mine Design & Cultural Center in Genk, Belgium. 

  • Text by

    • Órlaith Moore

      Órlaith Moore

      Originally from Ireland, Órlaith studied French and history, and inevitably fell in love with architecture and design while working as a tour guide on the Eiffel Tower. Since moving to Berlin, she’s committed to creating a beautiful, encyclopedic guide of vintage designers for Pamono, mastering the complexities of German grammar, and discovering every Biergarten in the city.