Monica Colla, Grace Johnston, Michaela van Voorthuysen, with the guidance of Gonzalo Valiente and Leandro Cappetto @ The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) – School of Design (Interior Architecture)
This project attempts to deconstruct one of the most iconic and recognised works of architecture of the 20th Century. The Eames house has been rigorously documented, detailed and analysed since completion, possibly to a point of exhaustion. This has taken place through various mediums, from the original evocative Charles and Ray Eames films and photographs within the house itself, to more recent low-tech architecture student video fly-throughs on youtube, and every attempt to re-draw a detail, plan and section in between.
However, despite all attempts, no single document has been successful in synthesising the technical, atmospheric and tactile information of the house. The original drawings for the house itself remain locked behind closed doors of the US library of congress, rarely accessible to the architectural investigator. Indeed, a simple google search for documents on one of the most famous houses in Modernist architecture wields low resolution drawings that seem to be half complete and missing important technical information.
This drawing is the culmination of many different avenues of research and enquiry via many different documents, some more accurate and reliable than others. The drawing is a forensic archeological document in this project, never fully complete, and used as a working tool that is constantly under the scrutiny of new evidence and new information as it is found. It is a fictional collage of real interior tectonic components – heating and cooling technologies, structural elements, interior linings, furnishings and partitions.
The document attempts to move away from the tired and tried attempt at drawing only the technical realities of the house, and instead explores an imaginary condition which has the potential to re-configure the house according to its most important sum of parts. The axonometric drawing is thus used as a vehicle for synthesis and summary, through which the complexity of multiple layers are collaged together – not necessarily to accurately depict their placement or position within the real building, but rather to reveal the tectonic inter-relationships between them, and potentially uncover a new reading of the house as an architectural artefact.
Who influences you graphically?
We were influenced by MOS Architects’ distinctive graphic style, specifically their use of pastel gradients in contrast with loud block colours, soft overlay of materials/textures and playful shadows.
What defined the colour palette? What is your take on colour?
We decided to incorporate two complimenting pastel gradients, one for the background and the other for the axonometric drawings. The two cool-hue gradients not only compliment and blend with each other to an extent, but also create a clear distinction between the graphic layers (background > axo > line/work) whilst allowing each axonometric to individually ‘pop’ on the panel. Deep electric indigo colours on the panel define the “cut lines” of the continuous construction materials. The intentional fluorescent yellow line-work highlights furnishings and objects that transform an interior into “domestic” space. We wanted to highlight this idea specifically within our representation to induce a conversation about how a “shell”, with construction methods/materials that connotes a warehouse, can easily be domesticized/transformed into a space of live/work through the personal addition of interior furnishings and domestic objects. All other lines in the drawing are softer pastels of the same colour pallet that lightly outline and define each technical component of the house without overpowering the volumes and shadows of the interiors. The bold electric blue was used to clearly annotate the drawings on the panel.
What documents did you use as primary research to then develop your own understanding of the architecture?
We used a combination of documents, including original technical information and drawings, external construction details from other buildings, images and film, interviews with the Eames. Additional research subjects included post-war American architecture and the role of modernism as it relates to mass production and manufacturing. A thorough investigation across all spheres of knowledge surrounding the house was necessary to uncover the complexity of architectural layering.
What defined the drawing as medium through which you choose to analyse and reveal the house?
The drawing serves as a way to peel and unravel the layers of the house. The axonometric is the perfect tool for this forensic process as mediation between plan, section, and perspective. The interior condition can be directly understood in relation to the services and hidden details that support it.
What role do the plan and section play in relation to the axonometric?
These drawings were fundamental to the continuous testing of possible technical realities within the house and ultimately once finalised, became the reference for the final axonometric.
What prompted you to focus on this specific ‘architectural artefact’, are you interested in approaching and un-layering other architectures?
We were specifically assigned to investigate the “architecturally iconic” Eames House as a project to further develop our understanding of construction.
Heavily investigating and un-layering a specific piece of architecture undoubtedly resulted in improving our construction knowledge with the specific materials used/involved to construct the house. That being said, we would be interested in investigating other buildings constructed in a different time period and with different materials, as an exciting learning experience to further expand/enhance construction knowledge and influence our detailing design.
What are for you the defining sum of parts of this house?
The permanent and repeated aspects of the house – i.e. the structure, foundations, partitions etc. are the least important for us – as what makes the house so unique is its ability to shift its interior atmospheric condition based on the objects and furniture that inhabit it.
What is your take on the contemporary relationship between the architecture artefact and its social mediation through tools as the photograph and instagram?
Through social mediation and dissemination, architecture has become so easily consumable. The length that projects take to construct has been shortened in some aspects by new construction methodologies and technologies, but it is still a long process. Our ability to consume and digest new architecture is arguably disproportionate to the time frame in which it is procured. The Eames house of course pre-dates social media, but its interior design and overall aesthetics (which were highly curated by the Eames) could have easily been the poster child for instagram clickbait.