Getting into the Structure

February 8, 2018

Eager to have as-built drawings to augment our original Eames House construction blueprints, we opened the site to a team of volunteers in 2013 who measured the structure and significant elements to 1/8”. The report, including drawings, was recently posted in the Library of Congress’ HABS/HAER/HALS online database, a record of thousands of significant structures constructed throughout the United States’ history.

It is fascinating to see the changes between the imagining of the site and the completion of construction, from the elimination of a fireplace to shifts in walls and materials.


Construction Drawings, with Fireplace                                                       As-Built Drawings, without Fireplace

Seeing these iterations, whether on site or online, encourages us to seek reasons why. In this case, Ray said during a 1983 interview with Pat Kirkham (published after Ray’s death as “Introducing Ray Eames”) “… when we were planning the houses we thought we might like a small fireplace for chilly mornings… Not a low one but one up here (gestured to a height of about ten feet). But Eero (Saarinen) said we were being absurdly romantic and got us to change our minds. Sometimes I wonder what that would have been like if we had built it. In the house as it is, I can’t quite see where it could go.”

Already, the HABS drawings have been used to create the Barbican exhibition model of the EH, and have provided many students (and other interested parties) with more detailed information.

THE BEST PART?! In a wonderful synchronicity, Charles worked on a HABS project in 1934 for the Jean Baptiste Valle House in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. Check out the far end of the house where Charles is taking measurements, using the same techniques we saw being used on the Eames House.

A grateful thank you to the folks behind The Eames House Historic American Building Survey (HABS) documentation project: it was sponsored by the Historic Preservation Education Foundation (HPEF) and the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI), with the cooperation and support  of the Eames Foundation, the University of Southern California Graduate Programs in Heritage Conservation, and  Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates,  Inc. (WJE). And for those who are curious, the full name of the site is The Historic American Buildings Survey/American Engineering Record/Historic American Landscapes Survey.

As-built drawings of the Eames House are here!

Published by: Lucia Dewey Atwood