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Inventors Industrial Design - Charles & Ray Eames Frank Lloyd Wright
A chair that looked like a potato chip. Another that resembled a "well-used first baseman's mitt." A folding screen that rippled...

Charles & Ray Eames
From the Eames Office website.. among the most important designers, best known for their groundbreaking contributions to architecture, furniture design, industrial design, manufacturing, and the photographic arts.

Hang-It-AllFrom The Library of Congress - The Work of Charles and Ray Eames
Charles Eames (1907-78) and Ray Eames (1912-88) gave shape to America's twentieth century. Their lives and work represented the nation's defining social movements: the West Coast's coming-of-age, the economy's shift from making goods to the producing information, and the global expansion of American culture. The Eameses embraced the era's visionary concept of modern design as an agent of social change, elevating it to a national agenda. Their evolution from furniture designers to cultural ambassadors demonstrated their boundless talents and the overlap of their interests with those of their country. In a rare era of shared objectives, the Eameses partnered with the federal government and the country's top businesses to lead the charge to modernize postwar America.

Charles and Ray Eames practiced design at its most virtuous and its most expansive. From the 1940s to the 1970s, their furniture, toys, buildings, films, exhibitions, and books aimed to improve society--not only functionally, but culturally and intellectually as well. The Eameses' wholehearted belief that design could improve people's lives remains their greatest legacy. Even more remarkable is how they achieved their seriousness of purpose with elegance, wit, and beauty.

1910 illustration by the architect of a prairie houseFrank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright was one of the most original American architects of the 20th century. His buildings and ideas have affected the way offices and homes are designed and organized today. Wright's willingness to look to various cultures for inspiration allowed him to develop a unique style. During the early decades of the 1900s, other American architects were merely imitating European styles. Wright believed in the power that good design has to make people more aware and respectful of their surroundings and of nature. Wright designed office buildings, houses, neighborhoods, public buildings, churches, and museums. He designed about 800 buildings. Of the 380 that were built, about 280 are still standing. The influence of his "Prairie style" of architecture is in evidence in homes across the country.

Many of Frank Lloyd Wright's most famous buildings are houses. Wright wanted to design houses that could be built cheaply using inexpensive materials. In the 1920s, he began to design a new system to build affordable homes using concrete blocks. He called these modular parts "textile blocks." They were somewhat similar to the idea of Lego blocks. Several of his textile block houses were constructed in the Los Angeles area in the early 1920s. Among these is La Miniatura, built for Alice Millard in Pasadena, California.

Many of Wright's masterpieces derive their unique look from his belief that architecture must fit into its natural surroundings. Wright felt that individuals -- and the buildings they occupy -- must exist in harmony with nature. As a Midwesterner, he was familiar with the flatlands of the Great Plains.

Wright's houses are known for being long, horizontal, and usually one story tall -- in other words, fairly flat. They are called "prairie" houses, after the flat expanses of land between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains.

Perhaps Wright's most striking and successful attempt to combine structure and nature is Fallingwater, a home in Mill Run, Pennsylvania. The rectangular sections that make up the house are built over a running stream and waterfall.

Frank Lloyd Wright was world famous by the 1940s. The Museum of Modern Art in New York City devoted an exhibition to his work in 1940. Wright designed the Guggenheim Museum in New York City to house a collection of abstract art. Construction began in 1956 and the building opened in 1959, shortly after Wright died.

The Guggenheim Museum's design is based on a spiral. There are no separate floor levels; instead floors are connected by a spiral ramp that visitors walk along to view art hung on curving walls. The curators complained that the walls were not suitable for displaying art. Nevertheless, today the building is recognized as one of the most interesting examples of modern architecture and considered one of Wright's masterpieces.

©Mary Bellis

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