One of our goals for the 250 Year Project is to consider how to retain the Eameses’ original intent for the landscape. How will the Eames Foundation maintain the spirit of the site as the “re-orientor and shock absorber” as Charles and Ray originally proposed in the 1945 issue of Arts & Architecture magazine.
How will we maintain the design aesthetic in the face of a maturing landscape, as trees continue to grow (below left to right: early 1950s, early 1990s, 2013).
We expect the changes that have already impacted the site to be on-going, and others to arise. Fire and mudslides have been ever-present risks. Neighborhood encroachment, drought (including increased deer depredation), climate change and more are being considered.
As a living element, the site is both flexible and adaptable to change. But it is a delicate balance of nature and the Eameses’ will, as they carefully crafted their site to present its natural elements in the best light possible.
During Charles and Ray’s lifetimes, volunteer trees (not planted by human hands) were allowed to grow. They were replacements for the future, ready to take over for the originals first planted in the 1880’s by Abbot Kinney, when they would no longer be viable. Over 60+ years, the on-site tree density has increased significantly. While the above left photo was clearly taken during the 1949 construction, the photo on the right was taken in 2013. The Foundation is currently examining and sequencing historic photographs in order to better understand the original plan for the site.
Every two to three years, the eucalyptus trees around the house and meadow are pruned for house and visitor safety. They are pruned to build structural strength as well as beauty.
Significant trees (whether significant due to their provenance or design) are being considered for grafting.
Ray created lists of preferred plants and drew planting plans of the raised bed by the South Court. The above photos are contemporary. While the look of the specific flowers and arrangements are appropriate; the orange-red geraniums were on Ray’s plant list and the Santa Barbara daisies were not. Which is more important: the look of the plantings or their genetic accuracy (based on a shrinking availability of approved plant list flowers)? Further, when Ray would go plant shopping with her gardner, she would constantly seek out new plants to try… beautiful, precisely detailed plants, often as replacements for failed or unavailable plants.
We look forward to exploring this question further when we begin our conservation plan for our landscape. For now, we continue to collect data and seek alternative sources for heirloom and other plants.
In order to understand the landscape more deeply we continue to analyze photographs taken by the Eameses and Ray’s records of plantings as well as conducting oral histories with our long-time gardner, Bob Newman, and others. Here he talks about the plantings in the North Bed.