Stone, Edward Durell (1902-1978)
- New York City
NC Work Locations:
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Edward Durell Stone (1902-1978) was a prolific American architect whose works included many prestigious buildings in the United States and abroad. His projects in North Carolina, the North Carolina State Legislative Building (1962-1963) in Raleigh, the High Point Municipal Building (1972-1973) in High Point, and the North Carolina Museum of Art (opened 1983) date from his mature years when he headed a large firm. The first two exemplify his distinctive style of the mid-century era in the mode of his defining United States Embassy in New Delhi, India (completed in 1959), which became nationally popular. As is often the case for large architectural firms, only further research may reveal which members of the firm were the actual designers for specific projects planned in the style defined by the principal architect.
The website http://edwarddurellstone.org/ traces Stone’s life and his development as an architect, including his evolution of an eclectic modernist style. This account is drawn from that source. Stone was born in Fayetteville, Arkansas into an established local family. After studying at the University of Arkansas, he moved to Boston in 1922, worked with a prominent architectural firm there, studied at Harvard’s School of Architecture and at MIT, and in 1927 won a Rotch Traveling Fellowship that supported travel in Europe and North Africa to visit and draw buildings.
Stone returned to the United States on the eve of the Great Depression. He settled in New York and worked for and with a series of prominent architects and was part of the team that planned the Rockefeller Center in 1930. He soon established his own practice and gained a long series of prestigious commissions as architect or associate architect. In 1940, a journey across the country to California, including a visit with Frank Lloyd Wright, inspired him to move beyond the strict forms of the European-influenced International Style to a more eclectic approach drawn from regional and classical sources.
After service in World War II creating master plans for airfields and other facilities, Stone returned to architectural practice. He also taught at the Yale University School of Architecture. His 1954 design for the United States Embassy in New Delhi, India, which was completed in 1959, famously displayed Stone’s new architectural approach and gained him widespread acclaim. Intended to combine modernist tenets with themes related to the architectural heritage of India as well as acknowledging the climate, it displayed a temple-like form on a raised base, slender columns forming a surrounding porch, and a pierced grille design related to Indian precedents. Stone credited his second wife, Maria Elena Torchio, as the inspiration for his new work.
Honored with awards and publicity, the embassy project opened a new phase in Stone’s career and national stature. Several of his designs across the nation showed similar elements in more or less elaborate versions. Among the best known is the John F. Kennedy Memorial Center for the Performing Arts (1965-1971) in Washington, D. C. Although some strict modernists rejected Stone’s design philosophy, his firm gained many important projects nationally and internationally. As noted in http://edwarddurellstone.org/, they “fused the formalism of Stone’s early Beaux-Arts training with a romantic historicism, abandoning strict modernist tendencies.” Stone’s architectural firm grew into one of the largest in the United States.
Two of Stone’s projects in North Carolina shared elements with the American Embassy in New Delhi. Best known is the North Carolina State Legislative Building in Raleigh (1962-1963), which was commissioned and built soon after the embassy. Stone was associated with the Raleigh firm of Holloway and Reeves. The commission was reportedly generated through Stone’s acquaintance with powerful state legislator Thomas White (D-Lenoir), chairman of the building committee. Stone was quoted in the News and Observer as saying that the design for the edifice “should avoid the mannerisms of the moment. It should not be a glass box; nor should we be archaeologists and trade completely on the past. It should be sympathetic but with a character of permanence” (News and Observer, Dec. 11, 1959). The choice of Stone met with diverse responses. In an article published in the News and Observer of January 3, 1960, Dean Henry Kamphoefner, the outspoken modernist at the School of Design, objected to Stone’s selection over North Carolina architects or internationally known modernists, but others including writers for the same paper praised the elegance and functionality of the building when it was completed (see for example News and Observer, February 3, 1963).
The Stone firm also gained the commission for the less recognized High Point City Hall (1972-1973), which employs horizontal bands of marble and windows rather than colonnades to define its exterior character. The last project by Stone’s firm, again associated with Holloway and Reeves, was the North Carolina Museum of Art (opened 1983; now the East Building of the museum), a controversial project located on a suburban site west of Raleigh, which displayed a different esthetic, employing square geometric forms in brick.
Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina (2003)
Elizabeth Culbertson Waugh, North Carolina’s Capital, Raleigh (1967)
Benjamin Briggs, The Architecture of High Point, North Carolina (2008)
High Point City HallContributors:Edward Durell Stone, architect; Leon Schute, architectDates:
1972-1973Location:High Point, Guilford CountyStreet Address:
211 S. Hamilton St.Status:
PublicImages Published In:
Benjamin Briggs, The Architecture of High Point, North Carolina (2008)Note:
Twentieth century High Point, a major manufacturing center, grew into a prosperous city and in fact became a second county seat (along with Greensboro) of Guilford County. In keeping with its stature, city leaders selected the renowned architect of the North Carolina Legislative Building to design the High Point Municipal Building. The design reiterates some elements of the legislative building, including the use of marble, top lighting (from a pyramidal roof), and the integration of plantings into the architecture. Unlike the colonnade of the legislative building, however, the predominant exterior character derives from increasingly set back horizontal bands of marble and ribbon windows.
North Carolina Museum of Art (East Building)Dates:
1974-1983Location:Raleigh, Wake CountyStreet Address:
2110 Blue Ridge Rd.Status:
For several years in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the assumption was that a new and larger facility for the North Carolina Museum of Art would be located in downtown Raleigh near other museums and cultural attractions. Numerous architects were considered, including, according to reporter Ernie Wood, the prestigious modernist Marcel Breuer (News and Observer, Oct. 7, 1973).
In 1973, a committee headed by legislator Thomas White (D-Lenoir) selected architects Edward Durell Stone and Holloway and Reeves (who had planned the North Carolina Legislative Building) and—according to the News and Observer (June 19, 1973) without much public input—decided on a site west of Raleigh on state-owned property that was part of a youth prison facility. Illustrating Ernie Wood’s story, “Museum Plan Approved,” the initial drawings showed a very large multi-part facility that took advantage of the rolling topography (News and Observer, Sept. 22, 1973). Controversies over the site and the design ensued (News and Observer, July 5, 1974), and not until 1976 were the plans sufficiently complete to seek construction bids. The groundbreaking took place in 1977. Architect Stone died in 1978 while the building was under construction, and the building opened in 1983.
Changes to the design in size and materials developed, many of them driven mainly by economy. According to Wikipedia, one economy was to change the exterior material from marble to brick, which occurred after Stone’s death in 1978; this statement requires further confirmation. As built, the museum was much smaller than the original scheme, with a design based on manipulation of geometric square forms accommodating the sloping site. The simply detailed brick building is now part of a larger museum park that has numerous features, including the large West Building (opened 2010). A thorough history of the East Building’s design evolution is to be desired.
North Carolina State Legislative BuildingDates:
1960-1962Location:Raleigh, Wake CountyStreet Address:
100 block W. Jones St.Status:
PublicImages Published In:
Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina (2003); Elizabeth Culbertson Waugh, North Carolina’s Capital, Raleigh (1967)Note:
Set astride Halifax Street on axis with the State Capitol, the edifice designed to house the state legislature was among the first generation of buildings planned by Edward Durell Stone’s firm along lines inspired by his acclaimed United States Embassy in New Delhi, India. (It did not supplant the State Capitol but simply provided additional space for the legislature and is regarded as unusual if not unique in that purpose). Featuring piazza-like colonnades, deep roof overhangs, and a series of rooftop pavilions interspersed with plantings, its design suited Raleigh’s southern climate and made reference to the classicism of the State Capitol as well as to Raleigh’s original city plan. The pavilions provide shaded top lighting to the interior, including the two legislative chambers and interior enclosed courtyards. Although faced in marble, the building also made extensive use of concrete in both structural elements and highly finished visible surfaces, as well as terrazzo, providing a great savings over the more extensive use of marble often featured in major public buildings.
Selection of the nationally renowned firm expressed the state’s sense of its rising place in the postwar era. According to https://blogs.lib.unc.edu/ncm/2013/02/06/the-state-legislative-building-opened-50-years-ago-today/, the North Carolina State Legislative Building commission, chaired by Thomas White (D-Lenoir), heard from many North Carolina architects interested in the project, and eleven firms made presentations to the commission. Among these was the firm of Holloway and Reeves of Raleigh. Ralph B. Reeves had “sought Stone out as a design consultant and associated architect. Stone traveled to Raleigh to meet the members of the commission in late October, and the Stone and Holloway and Reeves firms were awarded the contract for the building in early December.” The choice of a celebrated out-of-state architect for an important building was a familiar event in North Carolina, as was the objection by in-state architects, such as Dean Henry Kamphoefner of the School of Design, who complained about the selection of Stone over in-state architects or more renowned national and international modernists (see News and Observer of January 3, 1960).
According to the News and Observer, of February 3, 1963, the commission was awarded in December, 1959, and preliminary drawings were approved in June 1960. The firm of Holloway and Reeves was responsible for working drawings and supervision. Bids were awarded and work began in December, 1960, and the building was finished in December, 1962, receiving widespread praise. Despite changing tides of taste, the legislative building has maintained its stature and (like architect Stone) gained growing architectural appreciation over the years.