Wednesday, June 24, 2009

House call

One of the great things about living in New Zealand is that you sometimes get the opportunity to meet people it’s unlikely you’d meet in their own countries. That was certainly true of the architectural writer Michael Webb who came to New Zealand in part to follow his interest in the early work of Ian Athfield and Roger Walker. A day spent driving Michael around Wellington has been handsomely rewarded over the years including a memorable visit to the Eames House.

The fragile state of the interior of the house (Case Study House No. 8) means that you can usually only walk around the grounds and peer in the windows. We say ‘only’ because that in itself is an unforgettable experience. With Michael though we were able to go inside thanks to his connections with the grandson of the Eames, Eames Demetrios. The house has been left as though Charles and Ray Eames just walked out. The famous crochet rug is still on the more famous Eames Chair and books and bits and pieces appear to be lying where they were last used.

This month the Eames House is 60 years old. While it might not exactly rival the pyramids, it is an amazing sight for architecture fans. As a bonus for us, Michael Webb’s apartment in Westwood is where Charles and Ray Eames lived when they were designing the Eames chair. The work of Richard Neutra, the apartment is modestly scaled and elegant. Michael is not obsessed by the authenticity of his piece of architectural history but it still has the original window catches and kitchen appliances as well as his collection of Eames furniture and objects.