April 10, 2019

Getty Conservation Institute and Eames Foundation Announce Adoption of Conservation Management Plan for Historic Eames House

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Alexandria Sivak
(310) 440-6473
Getty Communications



Announcement comes on the 70th anniversary of the iconic home’s construction

LEFT: The historic eucalyptus row, dating to the 1880s,as it appeared in 2013. Branch drop and leaf litter are significant visitor and building risks. The CMP provides policies on managing the eucalyptus row. Photo: Leslie Schwartz, © Eames Office.
RIGHT: Ray and Charles outside the living room on a rainy day in March 1978. Photo: Hap Johnson, © Eames Office


LOS ANGELES – The Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) and the Eames Foundation announced today the completion of a comprehensive Conservation Management Plan for the Eames House. The house, built by renowned designers Charles and Ray Eames, is a National Historic Landmark. The plan provides the framework for the ongoing care, management, conservation, display, and interpretation of the site, including the house and studio, the collection of objects in the home, and the landscape. The Eames Foundation’s adoption of the plan celebrates the 70th anniversary of the home’s construction. An overview of the plan can be viewed here.

            “While the GCI undertakes initiatives all over the world, it is critical to recognize the important organizations that we engage locally, like our work at the Eames House,” says Tim Whalen, John E. and Louise Bryson Director of the Getty Conservation Institute. “The Eames Foundation have been excellent stewards of this site, and have been enthusiastic collaborators since they invited us to work with them. We are pleased that the completion of the Conservation Management Plan will now guide future conservation efforts.”

            Nestled into a coastal hill in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles, the Eames House stands as a glass and steel icon of modern architecture. The 1949 home and studio was designed by husband-and-wife team Charles and Ray Eames as part of the influential Case Study House Program created by Arts and Architecture magazine editor John Entenza. The Eameses designed the house for themselves—they would live there until their deaths—and they introduced many novel ideas about materials, construction and industrial design.

            Charles and Ray Eames were an unstoppable design force in midcentury America, and their impact is still visible today through everyday objects such as chairs. They were emblematic of a fresh Southern California design approach, but they quickly became global influencers, leaving a widespread legacy in the fields of architecture, filmmaking, furniture, graphics, and exhibition and industrial design. From its earliest days, the Eames House has attracted worldwide attention as an expression of their creativity and design principles.

            The Eames Foundation was founded in 2004 in order to preserve and protect the Eames House, as it faced several conservation challenges. After consulting with a number of experts, the Foundation partnered with the GCI in 2012 to create a long-term conservation strategy. At the time, the GCI was beginning to develop its Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative, and determined that the Eames House would make an excellent inaugural project.

            Conserving and protecting the house for future generations is a goal shared by both the GCI and the Eames Foundation. The Eames House Conservation Management Plan was a multiyear effort spearheaded by the GCI’s Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative team, and represents a milestone in the preservation and protection of the home. Based on an understanding of the significance of the Eames House, both as a major work of architecture and as a representation of Charles and Ray Eameses’ lives as designers, the Conservation Management Plan offers the Eames Foundation a critical tool for managing the house.

            Before beginning work on the Conservation Management Plan, the GCI assisted the Eames Foundation with targeted technical investigations to facilitate problem-solving. Together with project architects Escher GuneWardena Architecture, Inc., the GCI and Eames Foundation assembled a multidisciplinary team of conservators, scientists, architects, and engineers to tackle diverse conservation challenges. The severely damaged square vinyl-asbestos tiles were removed from the living room and replaced with vinyl-composite tile flooring, adding a new moisture barrier system to mitigate damage to the floor. The GCI investigated how the Eameses used color and paint in the house, carefully examining the paint stratigraphy (paint layers) to record the series of painting campaigns over the life of the house. Research revealed a first-generation paint layer of warm gray created with pigments possibly tinted by hand, supporting the Foundation’s oral histories of Ray Eames mixing the paint. Conservators also studied the golden tallowwood paneling inside the home, and recommended a treatment for the wood that preserved its patina and added protection from ultraviolet light.

             “In developing the Conservation Management Plan, the team started with the history of the house and its design, its physical features, and how the house embodies Charles and Ray’s creative spirit. From there, it identifies what is significant about the Eames House and presents policies that will protect this significance,” says Chandler McCoy, a senior GCI project specialist who manages the Eames House conservation project. “The plan will be a vital tool in the creation of a long-term strategy to ensure that the house may be enjoyed by visitors well into the future.”

                The Conservation Management Plan takes a holistic view of the site, recognizing that it is more than a great work of architecture. The Eames House is also filled with Charles and Ray’s belongings and sits in a significant landscape, and these elements of the site are interconnected and all are fundamental to its importance. The contents of the house—artwork, objects collected from foreign travel, flower arrangements, colorful textiles, vintage toys, and Eames-designed furnishings—are a window into their approach to life and design. In addition, the landscaped site itself is part of the sensory experience through the aroma of the surrounding eucalyptus trees, the play of light and shadow on the glass walls, and views to the Pacific Ocean. All of these intangible qualities contribute to what makes the place significant and all have been addressed in the Conservation Management Plan’s conservation policies, ensuring that in preserving the house, the spirit of place is not lost.

Policies of note within the Conservation Management Plan include:
     • Ensure that conservation projects retain, respect, and maintain the authenticity of the original elements of the home.
     • Seek the advice of conservation specialists for all repairs to and conservation of original building materials.
     • Conserve interior finishes and contents to demonstrate how the Eameses approached living and working in the space.
     • Expand Eames family, friends and colleagues’ knowledge about contents, collections, and housekeeping practices.
     • Develop a landscape management plan for the site.

          “We want the Eames House to look as though Charles and Ray just stepped out for the day, and working with the GCI has helped us clarify what the site needs in order to meet this goal,” says Lucia Dewey Atwood, director of the Eames Foundation’s 250 Year Project, which aims to preserve the house for generations to come. “I’m happy to say that our approach mirrored the iterative process the Eameses used in their designing—they tested several ideas at once, refined and adjusted, then tested again in order to arrive at the best design solution.”

           The Eames House Conservation Management Plan was prepared by a cross-disciplinary and multi-skilled project team of heritage specialists. GML Heritage, in Sydney, Australia, was com¬missioned by the Getty Conservation Institute’s Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative to prepare the CMP and provide advice and peer review on conservation management of the site. The authors include Sheridan Burke and Jyoti Somerville of GML Heritage, and Gail Ostergren, Laura Matarese, and Chandler McCoy of the GCI.

          A survey of the home’s architectural finishes was also funded by a Getty Foundation grant as part of its Keeping It Modern initiative. This work will be completed later in 2019. Generous support for the Eames House Conservation Project was provided by the GCI Council, the Dunard Fund, USA, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Vitra, Herman Miller, the Eames Office, the Ludwick Family Foundation, Nebo and hundreds of individuals.



The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that includes the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the Getty Foundation. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades.

The Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) works internationally to advance conservation practice in the visual arts—broadly interpreted to include objects, collections, architecture, and sites. The Institute serves the conservation community through scientific research, education and training, field projects, and the dissemination of information. In all its endeavors, the GCI creates and delivers knowledge that contributes to the conservation of the world’s cultural heritage.

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