Probably the most celebrated furniture designer of the 20th Century Charles Eames produced the iconic Eames LCW or lounge chair wood with his wife Ray Eames back in 1946.
The designer chair was based on the designs of Charles and Eero Saarinen's 1940 joint entry in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) 'Organic Design in Home Furnishings' competition, (which they won) but was also influenced by Alvar Aalto's early work into bent plywood.
Although Aalto's furniture had not yet been imported into America by 1940, the 1938 retrospective look at Aalto's work at the MoMA not only led to Charles and Eero's design but to other experiments in the US, including Designs from the Chicago School of Design, but all others followed Aalto's original technique. What set the 1940 MoMA entry apart from other experiments in plywood was the ability to mould it on two planes at the same time. However, Charles and Eero's design was not without its problems and was prone to crack when bent at the sharp angles required and had to be upholstered. Nevertheless the Eames and Saarinen competition entries set a new direction for modern furniture design.
It soon became clear to Charles that the design was far too expensive for the mass market for which they were intended. Over the next 4 years working with his wife Ray Eames, Charles examined the problems and complexities of bending plywood firstly using it to re-design stretcher leg splints for the US Navy. Funding from this project helped enormously with their efforts to produce affordable bent plywood chairs.
One of the great achievements of the LCW was the independent articulation of the seat and back with the use of the rubber shock mounts and like the cantilevered chairs of the 1920's (Brno chair etc) the Eames design relied on the structure of the chair for its comfort rather than upholstery. However it wasn't just comfort which separated the Eames design from others. The way the LCW seat almost hovers above the legs and the back pushes forward away from is support is visually as well as ergonomically striking.
Few other designers could claim to not only to revolutionise the design but also the manufacturing process. With the production by the Evans Company and later the Herman Miller Company (and the help of George Nelson), the Eameses brought design to an industrial scale with new methods of bonding and moulding techniques. This influenced not only their later work with the opulent Eames Lounge Chair but also others including the Series 7 and Ant chairs by Arne Jacobsen. In 1946 MoMA hosted an exhibition of Charles and Ray Eames work including the LCW and DCW.