Vitra names a street after Ray Eames


14 December 2012

Tomorrow, the American designer Ray Eames would have turned 100. To celebrate, Vitra has renamed a street at its Basel Campus after her.

The newly-titled Ray-Eames-Strasse 1 joins Charles-Eames-Strasse 1 - a street named for Ray's husband and design partner Charles - at the Vitra Campus in Weil am Rhein, Germany, an architecture park that includes structures such as Zaha Hadid's fire station, Jean Prouvé's petrol station and Jasper Morrison's bus stop.

The renamed street is part of a programme of birthday celebrations for Ray overseen by Vitra, which owns the European rights to Ray and Charles' furniture designs. Vitra will also screen the film Eames - The Architect and the Painter this weekend at the VitraHaus, the stacked barn building that Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron opened at the Campus in 2010.

Ray, who died in 1988, was one of the most prominent designers of the 20th century. Working together with her husband Charles, she was responsible for Modernist architecture and furniture designs such as the steel and glass panelled Eames House (1949) and the plywood and leather Eames lounge chair (1956).

Ray began her career as a painter before turning to design following her marriage to Charles, an architect, in 1941. In a 1982 interview, Ray memorably stated, “I never gave up painting, I just changed my palette.”

Vitra's Eames celebrations mark the growing acceptance within the design world of the importance of Ray to her partnership with Charles, a figure whose contribution to design has traditionally been emphasised over that of his wife.

Professor Pat Kirkham, the author of Charles and Ray Eames: Designers of the Twentieth Century (1998), says: "Charles was greatly in awe of Ray's many talents and always tried to set the record straight when people underestimated this somewhat retiring and very private person. Many all too easily categorized her as a painter and supportive wife of a great industrial designer."

"Ray's touch is felt everywhere but most especuially in their interiors, exhibitonsn and films. As john Neuhart (who worked in their office for many yeas) told me and others on several occassions, it was Ray who made the difference between that good, great and 'Eames'."

Ray-Eames-Strasse 1 will be inaugurated today in anticipation of a weekend of planned celebrations for Ray's birthday at the Vitra Campus.