Eames Institute of Infinite Curiosity celebrates a legacy of pioneering design
Launched by the designers’ granddaughter Llisa Demetrios and Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia, the digital portal makes the processes and works of Charles and Ray Eames accessible to everyone
Charles and Ray Eames need no introduction. Continually idolized for their recognizable furniture designs and the iconic Case Study House #9, the couple have a well-documented legacy that continues to thrive and inspire generations of designers beyond their lifetimes. What is perhaps less well known are the ways in which they applied a methodology to approach problem solving. To that end, a new non-profit organization known as the Eames Institute of Infinite Curiosity has been created by curator Llisa Demetrios, the couple’s granddaughter, and designer and entrepreneur, the co-founder of Airbnb, Joe Gebbia.
Intended to show how the lessons and learnings of Charles and Ray Eames can potentially help solve tough problems today, the institute has launched an immersive digital portal that will make the duo’s processes and work accessible to everyone.
The Eames Institute of Infinite Curiosity is made up of archival exhibits and live programming that truly brings everything we think we know about designers to life. It begins with three new exhibitions, each developing a theme. “Before They Were Eames” traces the parallel lives of Charles and Ray before they teamed up; ‘Plywood During the War’ explores how the newlywed couple adapted their user-centric approach to aid the WWII effort; while “Form Follows Formulation” showcases the origins of the couple’s “Shell” chair.
Dedicated to championing iterative learning, encouraging experimentation, and equipping visitors with tools to solve problems at a multitude of scales, the institute relies heavily on endless curiosity and a love of the discovery of the Eames. His access to the couple’s personal archives sheds new light on their creative process. Showcasing a huge range of ephemera, including tens of thousands of objects such as handmade prototypes, furniture components and folk art collected from around the world, the collection was acquired from the Eames family in 2019 and is on public display for the first time.
“The Eames Institute adds a new facet to the network of institutions fascinated by the work of the Eames and reinforces everyone’s overall mission to preserve and share the legacy of Charles and Ray Eames,” says Eames Demetrios, Director of the Eames Office and Chairman of the Board of the Eames Foundation.
Although it is operated independently of these two other entities, the institute finds its own special place with the Eames Ranch – a working farm located among the hills of Petaluma, California, where Llisa’s mother, Lucia Eames, built an artist’s residence and studio. . Designed in the mid-1990s by architect William Turnbull, this hidden gem now serves as a living laboratory for the institute.
“I learned so much living here with my mother 20 years ago, and I got to see the wonder on people’s faces as they experienced this material first hand,” Llisa says. “With the institute and our new website, it’s exciting to think of how many more people will be able to share this experience and how my grandparents’ legacy will evolve in surprising and delightful ways.” §