Say the names Charles and Ray Eames and interior designers, collectors and people willing to pay a few thousand dollars for an armchair will nod in recognition. What most people don’t know is that beside furniture, the late American husband and wife team also had their creative fingers in other pies, such as architecture, short films, fabrics and even toys.

These are some of the many discoveries that await you at the highly anticipated Essential Eames: A Herman Miller Exhibition at the ArtScience Museum. The multiple galleries: Architecture, Paintings, Photography, Film, Children’s Toys and Chairs capture an array of professional work, which served as milestones in the field of product design.­

The exhibition starts with the Architecture gallery showcasing case study houses #8 (where they eventually lived till their deaths) and #9. Architecture buffs are likely to take detailed notes of the models, which include detailed floor plans of the modern homes circa mid-20th century. Their vision considerably influenced the look and of modern houses we see even today capturing the essence of “work, play, life and nature” all under one roof. The case study house was well furnished with unique pre-fabricated materials.


Besides product design inventions and architectural works, Charles Eames also dabbled in photography, a hobby he grew to love, and was remarkably good in. Although he died at age 71, in celebration of his 100th birthday in 2007, the gallery showcases 100 of his rarest seen photographs. There was no surprise that most of the photographs were those of buildings and chairs – what Charles fancied. However, there were a few photographs, which stood out beautifully. Apart from architecture, Charles Eames also enjoyed capturing faces of people on the streets as well as food. A particular picture, which Eames caught, was a typical English breakfast spread laid on a dining table – whilst the idea might have seemed ordinary, the photograph turned out beautiful as the colors were soft and warm.

Here are some of Charles Eames’ photography collection:

The love for photography evolved into one for producing short films. The Eameses actually wrote and directed a film named Powers of Ten, which captures a sense of scale in relation with the order of magnitude based on the factor 10. The film first explores the macro of Earth followed by the universe before examining the concept of the micro, in a single atom.

Perhaps more than for these areas, Ray and Charles Eames were known for their designer chairs. In the furniture gallery, we can see on display the one the late Pontiff   sat on in 1990.

Apart from that, the couple also gave us iconic chairs, including the very comfortable Lounge Chair and Ottoman, which is still in demand today. Their vision of the leather chair was one which Eames had intended to give off a “warm, receptive look of a well-used first basemen’s mitt” More familiar and affordable are the Shell Chairs, which were industrially manufactured plastic chairs. The shell shape and its large base comfortably cradle the body of anyone sitting on it, making it a popular choice for imitators who have produced similar pieces you find in school, libraries and even homes today.

The last stop: the Essential Play section is probably the highlight of the exhibition for those who need to be physically engaged, and start creating when so inspired. Visitors can go to the counter to check out a toolbox containing basic stationery. These can then be used on colorful mini tables at the D.I.Y. area in front, where a long stretch of exciting materials like crepe paper, ice cream sticks, clothing pegs, straws and aluminum foil, can be found.

Indonesian student 19-year-old Cika Dwiyanti said, “The exhibition is really good and it’s different because of the handicrafts section. It’s really awesome.” Her travel friend, Victor, 21 mentioned, “I’ve never been to an exhibition where (we) can sit and do arts and craft. Usually (we) walk around and go home after”.  They had stopped by the Eames exhibition after visiting the Mummy exhibition, which was going on simultaneously.

55-year-old Australian architect, Steven, brought his family to visit the exhibition. He noted, “The Eames pair are very talented and I certainly didn’t realize that they delved across so many disciplines like film and photography.”

His 2 daughters, Kate, 17 and Emma, 11, were seated at a round table in the Essential Play section creating their own designer chair. “Our favourite stop was at the House of Cards. That was very enjoyable because we got to play with the toys,” said Kate, while she was cutting up a piece of aluminum foil for her miniature chair

The exhibition definitely provides visitors with multiple perspectives. Budding artists will find inspiration here, while its child-friendly nature makes this exhibition fun for families and friends too.


The exhibition runs from 29 June 2013 to 5 January 2014. Catch a sneak peek of the exhibition here.

Tickets for the exhibition are at $13 for locals and $15 for tourists.

For further information:

Photos courtesy of Marina Bay Sands and Eames Office