It’s not easy being a septuagenarian, especially when your bones are made of steel and your skin consists of little more than brittle sheets of single-pane glass. Just ask the Eames House, an icon of midcentury industrial modernism designed as a personal residence by storied design duo Charles and Ray Eames in 1949. The conservation of the breezy home, filled with the eclectic knick-knacks and thoughtful design objects that define the couple’s colorful and practical oeuvre, is the subject of a new plan crafted by the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI), the Eames Foundation, and project architects Escher GuneWardena Architecture that aims to preserve the residence for posterity. Described as an “outstanding international exemplar of postwar modern residential design” by GCI, the house, a national historic landmark, sits on a scrubby, eucalyptus-filled bluff outside Los Angeles overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It was originally developed as part of the influential Case Study House Program initiated by Arts and Architecture magazine editor John Entenza. Organized as a pair of spartan volumes set on a landscaped terrace, the home pioneered a new approach to residential design that married soaring, interlocking interiors with industrial construction materials—steel trusses, plywood paneling, and expanses of early curtain wall glass—to “humanize” the fruits of mass production while also providing effervescent but economical accommodations. But in the decades since, those then-experimental approaches have shown their wear, despite the Eames Foundation’s laudable stewardship. GCI’s plan, like the inventive spirit that went into designing the house, will work as a global case study in its own right by piloting conservation and research approaches for stabilizing and maintaining modernist-era structures. Detailed conditions assessments, an inventory of existing elements, and long-term site stabilization strategies are being developed in conjunction with the plan in an effort to create an approach that better resembles a cohesive preservation ethos rather than a detailed to-do list for the home. As a result, the effort is focused on problem-solving tasks like replacing asbestos tiles with nontoxic finishes, adding moisture barriers to prevent indoor condensation, and examining microscopic layers of paint around the premises to develop a detailed color-coded timeline for the complex. Describing the plan, Tim Whalen, the John E. and Louise Bryson Director of the Getty Conservation Institute, said, “While the GCI undertakes initiatives all over the world, it is critical to recognize the important organizations that we engage locally, like our work at the Eames House,” adding, “We are pleased that the completion of the Conservation Management Plan will now guide future conservation efforts.”
Posts tagged with "Getty Conservation Institute":
The Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) will host a workshop series on the three—and only—museums designed by Swiss architect Le Corbusier. The series will discuss the care and keeping of Sanskar Kendra Museum and the Government Museum and Art Gallery (in Ahmedabad and Chandigarh, India, respectively), as well as the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo. Le Corbusier’s Three Museums: A workshop on their care and conservation is part of the GCI’s ongoing Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative, which is an international program to advance the conservation of 20th century heritage, specifically modern architecture. The conservation of modern architecture presents a number of issues outside of ideological constraints. Concerns stem from material and structural decay: Keeping it Modern, a conservation grant program associated with the Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative, notes that the innovational materials and structural systems found in modern architectural heritage were often untested, leading to their poor performance over time. According to the GCI, the three museums share a number of traits such as an exposed concrete frame, thick concrete pilotis, and surrounding public plazas. All three were designed around Corbusier’s “concept of a museum of unlimited growth,” a museum plan that allowed for the future expansion of the cultural institutions. The workshops, taking place from February 4–6 in Ahmedabad and on February 8 in Chandigarh, include representatives from all three museums and the Fondation Le Corbusier. Participants will discuss the potential paths of improvement for the architectural conservation and collections management for each building. Susan Macdonald, the head of GCI Field Projects, hopes the workshops will generate a conservation network for the three related sites. The events, she explained in a press release, are an opportunity for "museum participants to consider what is significant about their respective museums as individual buildings and as part of the larger collected work of a great architect, each can better develop the necessary conservation policies to care for these significant buildings and their important collections."
The Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) announced this morning that after three years of research, construction is currently underway on a series of architectural conservation efforts aimed at restoring the luster of Louis Kahn’s seminal Southern California work, the Salk Insitute of Biological Studies in La Jolla, California. The GCI is providing research and funding to enact necessary site repairs and develop a long-term conservation management plan at the 51-year old complex, widely considered to be one of Kahn’s masterworks. The complex is designed as a series of laboratories and offices overlooking a central courtyard facing the Pacific Ocean; its buildings are articulated in monolithic concrete walls and outfitted with custom-made teak windows. Kahn was originally commissioned to design the complex in 1965 as the new research base for the man credited with developing the polio vaccine, Dr. Jonas Salk. The Institute’s beachside locale has resulted in extensive deterioration and a “non-uniform appearance” of those distinctive teak elements, which number 203 in total. Each window assembly was prefabricated by carpenters in accordance with a highly-customized fenestration regime for the building, with each aperture offering varied combinations of sliding window panes, louvres, and shutters. Research conducted by the GCI team discovered that the window walls were suffering from particular forms of deterioration resulting from the presence of a fungal biofilm growing on the frames, exposure to the elements, and the detrimental effects of prior maintenance efforts. Not only that, but researchers discovered that the windows also suffer from moisture infiltration resulting from a lack of flashing and weather stripping and, additionally, the outright failure of weather sealants. Over the course of their studies, researchers coordinated their efforts by studying original documentation in Kahn’s archives, performing laboratory analysis on in situ materials, and eventually developing full-scale mock-ups of the windows to test conservation approaches. The conservation work, executed by Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc. of Pasadena, California, was launched in 2013. Now that research has concluded, construction has begun and the project is due to finish in the spring of 2017. London-based Peter Inskip + Peter Jenkins Architects are consulting on the project as well. Both teams worked on the recent conservation work performed at Kahn’s Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut. The initiative to restore the architectural masterpiece was coordinated as part of the GCI’s Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative, a project that has also overseen conservation management plan for the Charles and Ray Eames House in Malibu, California. It's funded by the Getty Foundation’s Keeping It Modern Initiative. Tim Whalen, director of the GCI, commented on the iconic nature of the project, saying, “The Salk Institute is an architectural icon, and the Getty was privileged to be invited by the Salk to work with them on the building’s long-term preservation. Our access to the site, its archives, and the Institute’s staff, some of whom have worked there since the early years, has been extraordinary,” adding, “The methodology developed by the GCI will serve as a roadmap for future conservation projects at the Salk Institute, as well as a model for other Louis Kahn buildings and buildings with similar conservation issues.” A special lecture regarding the GCI’s conservation efforts at the Salk Institute is scheduled for October 5 at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. That talk will be the first of many Kahn-related events occurring across the Southland this year, complementing a career retrospective on Kahn, Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture, hosted by the San Diego Museum of Art, set to open November 5, 2016, in San Diego.
Charles and Ray Eames designed their Pacific Palisades home in 1949 as part of the Case Study Program, which was begun by John Entenza, editor of Arts & Architecture Magazine. The program invited some of the best architects of the day to share their ideas for using new materials and methods to construct well-designed, mass-producible housing. The two-part, rectangular house was constructed of prefabricated materials and off-the-shelf products. Now, the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) has made the mid-20th century modern architecture landmark a subject of its Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative. The Eames House Conservation Project, as it is called, is revealing challenges related to utilizing contemporary materials in a landmark structure, even one of modern vintage. GCI scientists are developing a long-term conservation plan in collaboration with the Eames Foundation and project architects Escher GuneWardena. However, inspections of the house have already produced results. GCI conservator Emily MacDonald-Korth's paint excavation revealed hand-mixed grays, likely created by Ray Eames. Conservator Arlen Heginbotham identified the wood on a living room wall as a species of eucalyptus similar to the large eucalyptus trees on the property. The foundation is also looking at the environment of the site. The house is situated in a meadow overlooking the ocean.