Joe Gebbia backs new Eames Institute
‘Discovering the Eames’ as a young art student changed the trajectory of my life and their work continues to have a profound impact on me to this day,’ says Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia. The American designer and entrepreneur, who cites the work of Ray and Charles Eames as key influences, Gebbia has provided the initial funding for a new nonprofit organization called the Eames Institute of Infinite Curiosity. ‘I am thrilled to be a part of this amazing organization working to share the lessons and legacy of Ray and Charles,’ adds Gebbia.
The new initiative is led by President & CEO John Cary and Chief Curator Llisa Demetrios, granddaughter of Ray and Charles. ‘My goal as the Chief Curator at the Eames Institute of Infinite Curiosity is to help recreate the world that existed outside of the frame,’ explains Demetrios. ‘I am driven in this work to inspire others to learn from the way my grandparents approached their life and work so that they possibly might feel that sense of limitless potential that I got to experience firsthand and take it back and apply it in their own world.’
The mission of the Eames Institute is to equip everyone with the same creative problem-solving of Ray and Charles, so that anyone can use design to solve problems. ‘Ray and Charles didn’t believe in the notion of the gifted few—they believed that you got good at what you liked to do through practice, exploration, understanding, and effort,’ continues Demetrios. The institute will occupy both physical and digital spaces with an extensive archive at the Eames Ranch in Petaluma, California, and online exhibitions and online magazine ‘Kazam!’ on the Eames Institute website.
Joe Gebbia with Llisa Demetrios
Images courtesy of the Eames Institute
Airbnb entrepreneur and Eames Institute backer Joe Gebbia
The legacy of Ray and Charles Eames
A name synonymous with design, the Eameses remain two of the world’s most prolific and influential designers. Ray was a painter and sculptor and Charles was an architect. The pair got married in 1941 and together, they undertook a wide range of projects over the next 30 years: from architecture to filmmaking. Ray and Charles are best known for their iconic chair designs, such as the Eames Lounge Chair, and their innovations in materials and aesthetics.
Rather than center on the designs themselves, the newly formed institute focuses on the designers’ approach and explores how it can be applied to the challenges of today. ‘When Ray and Charles Eames were asked ‘What are the boundaries of design?’ they responded by turning the question on its head: “What are the boundaries of problems?” It is in this spirit that we welcome you to the Eames Institute of Infinite Curiosity, where the lessons Ray and Charles left us through their body of work, and more importantly, how they approached that work, are brought to life for a new generation willing to explore the ‘boundaries of problems’, says the Eames Institute website.
Ray and Charles are best known for their iconic chair designs
the Eames Collection
As part of the Eames Institute, tens of thousands of objects from the couple’s work and personal archives will be made widely available to the public for the first time. Housed at the Eames Ranch, the extensive collection will showcase Ray and Charles’ iterative process, deep well of curiosity, and love of discovery. Objects on display range from handmade prototypes and furniture components, to exhibit elements and folk art from around the globe.
‘Being able to share the legacy of Ray and Charles in this way, to showcase their incredible process and wide-angled vision of design, is the dream of a lifetime,’ explains Demetrios. ‘I hope the Institute’s efforts will help people find inspiration for solving problems in their own world.’
The most comprehensive and unique collection of Eames designs and related ephemera in the world
a closer look into life with ray and charles
The first online exhibitions on the Eames Institute website focus on three distinct themes. ‘Before They Were the Eameses’ looks at the designers’ lives before they became an iconic duo; ‘Plywood During the War’ examines the newlywed’s experiments with plywood during World War II; ‘Form Follows Formulation’ explores the story of the iconic Eames Shell Chair.
The Institute’s website is also home to an online magazine called ‘Kazam!’ The magazine features stories about people, projects, and ideas that are shaping a better tomorrow. Current articles include a look into childhood life with grandparents Ray and Charles penned by Demetrios. ‘We grandchildren never felt talked down to,’ she writes. ‘They took us seriously, listened to us, and gave us advice to take into our own creative work. When I, at the age of 12, informed Charles that I wanted to be a sculptor, he told me, ‘You need to be able to use every tool in your studio as well if not better than the person you hire—or you won’t know if they are doing a good job.”
Charles Eames with granddaughter Llisa Demetrios
Demetrios is now Chief Curator of the Eames Institute
the eames ranch
The Eames Ranch will be the cornerstone of the Eames Institute, serving as an indoor and outdoor ‘living laboratory’. Designed by architect William Turnbull, the building was constructed in the mid-1990s by Charles Eames’ daughter and Llisa’s mother, Lucia Eames, as a residence and artist studio.
‘I learned so much living here with my mother for twenty years, and got to see the wonder on people’s faces when they would experience this material first-hand,’ says Llisa Demetrios. ‘With the Institute and our new website, it’s so exciting to think about how many more people will get to share that experience, and for the legacy of my grandparents to evolve in surprising and delightful new directions.’
The Eames Ranch in Petaluma, California
Alongside Cary and Demetrios, the Eames Institute will be run by a team of museum professionals, agricultural and land stewards, and operations and program administrators. Despite operating independently, the new institute shares the same mission as the Eames Office and the Eames Foundation.
‘The Eames Institute will add a new facet to the network of organizations passionate about the Eameses work, and strengthen everyone’s overarching mission of preserving and sharing Charles and Ray’s creative legacy,’ says Eames Demetrios, Director of the Eames Office and Chairman of the Board of the Eames Foundation.
The ranch is a working farm, a residence, and an artist studio
The cornerstone of the Eames Institute