“Everything here tells a story,” says Llisa Demetrios as she walks past rows of seating prototypes. She stops to point out a progressive series of components produced from carved wood, cast plaster, and aluminum. These are among the collected works of Ray and Charles Eames—and Llisa, the youngest of the couple’s five grandchildren, is working to preserve and share their legacy as the chief curator of the Eames Institute of Infinite Curiosity.
Set amidst a sea of rolling hills in Sonoma County, California, the Institute celebrates the work, lives, and lessons of the legendary designers—and it’s also a living laboratory envisioning a better tomorrow. Llisa’s mother, Lucia Eames, acquired the site in the early ’90s and commissioned Sea Ranch founding architect William Turnbull to design a pair of structures that would serve as a family home, a working farmstead focused on sustainability, and storage and exhibition space for thousands of objects created, and collected, by Ray and Charles.
Inside, tools and prototypes put the Eameses’ problem-solving process on full display. Cabinet drawers brim with model-making equipment, Ray’s collection of marbleized and printed papers, and myriad art supplies from the graphics room at the former Eames Office. Vintage posters and photos from the Eameses’ exhibitions adorn the walls of the gallery, while the couple’s correspondence, birthday well-wishes, travel diaries, and passports take pride of place in an ever-rotating display. And above it all, a Musical Tower originally devised by the Eameses for the lobbies of the Time & Life Building invites guests to partake in the kinetic joy of dropping a marble down a fifteen-foot vertical xylophone.
“My mother’s dream was to share—and for others to experience—what she did,” says Llisa. To this end, she kept the collection in one place so that others can draw connections between the materials, learn how Ray and Charles solved problems, and follow their curiosity to exciting discoveries. “There are always going to be daunting problems,” says Llisa. “So, what is a way to think about them differently so that we can solve them?” ❤
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