January 28, 2015
As the first phase of the Eames House Conservation Project draws to a close, Kyle Normandin, associate principal with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates and former GCI project manager; Lucia Dewey Atwood, director of the Eames Foundation's 250 Year Project; and Frank Escher of Escher GuneWardena Architecture, project architects for the phase one work, illuminated the critical role that science and investigation play in conservation.
They discussed studies and conservation work completed at the Eames House to date—including analysis and treatment on tallowwood paneling, initial repairs to the building envelope, paint analysis, and investigation and replacement of the vinyl tile floor covering—as well as plans for the next phase of the project. Susan Macdonald, head of Field Projects at the GCI, moderated the discussion.
Sitting atop a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Eames House and Studio (Case Study House No. 8), constructed by Charles and Ray Eames in 1949, is an internationally renowned work of postwar, modern architecture. Designed as an experiment in the use of prefabricated materials in residential design, the house is celebrated as much for the diverse array of furnishings and objects that fill it as it is for its architectural innovations. It has been an inspiration to generations of architecture and design devotees.
Not surprisingly, after sixty-five years, the house and its interior collections are showing evidence of aging. In September 2011, in order to facilitate conservation work, the Eames Foundation lent the contents of the living room to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for the exhibit, California Design, 1930-1965: "Living in a Modern Way." This provided an opportunity to commence comprehensive investigations of the exterior envelope and interior of the house and catalyzed the Eames Foundation and the Getty Conservation Institute’s partnership. The Eames House Conservation Project aims to develop a long-range strategy for the ongoing conservation, maintenance, and display of the house, its contents, and its landscape.
The first phase of this project has encompassed general condition survey work, investigation and analysis of specific material issues, and climate monitoring to improve understanding of the environment in and around the house. The results of these investigations will be instrumental in the development of conservation and maintenance strategies for the house and its interior collections, as well as its surrounding landscape. They informed the conservation treatments carried out on targeted elements of the living room and building envelope during this project phase.