Anyone who’s seen the movie The Graduate is familiar with the scene when Mr. McGuire says to Benjamin, “I just want to say one word to you. Just one word … Plastics.” And while this suggestion is dated today (it was even a bit dated when the movie was made in 1967), the truth is that plastics were big business – a “wonder material” that emerged after WWII. Charles and Ray Eames, who started working with it for chair production, immediately recognized the possibilities of plastics.
The design duo teamed up with Zenith Plastics and built a prototype for the 1948 MoMA “International Competition for Low-Cost Furniture Design.” Their goal was to create a molded compound curve chair that could be mass-produced at a reasonable price. To accomplish this goal they experimented with Zenith’s hydraulic dies that were used for building boats, and fiberglass-reinforced plastic that Zenith had used to make radar domes during the war. The resulting chair was offered for sale by the Herman Miller® Furniture Company in 1950. The collection grew and has been in production ever since, with one major change: Eames® Molded Plastic chairs are now made from eco-friendly recyclable polypropylene. Like all classics, this is a story that continues to evolve. (By the way, these classics are also on sale.) IMAGE: Sketches for the Eames Plastic Group.