Edward Durell Stone

Edward Durell Stone was born in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in 1902. He studied architecture at the Boston Architectural Club and was later employed by Beaux-Arts architect Henry Shepley (1887-1962). He entered Harvard University Faculty of Architecture to obtain his Masters degree, but transferred to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in order to study with Jacques Carlu (1890-1976), a professor of modern design. He went on to have a long and influential career distinguished by its distinctive and oppositional phases.

After two years of travel in Europe on scholarship, Stone returned to the United States and assisted in the design of Rockefeller Center; most notably, in the design of the interior of Radio City Music Hall. His first residence was the Mandell House (1933), a Modern concrete-and-glass structure in Mount Kisco, New York. His early works reflected an influence by Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) and earned him enough admiration in the architectural community that he was commissioned to design the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York with Phillip L. Goodwin (1885-1958) in 1939.

During the 1940s, Stone developed an interest in indigenous materials and settings, but this shift was nowhere near as dramatic as his great transition in the 1950s from the forefront of the International Style to an embrace of ornate, romantic, and monumental designs. This metamorphosis has been long attributed to his marriage to his second wife, Maria Elena Torchio, in 1950. A fashion writer, she expressed her preference for more ornate architecture and not long after they married, his designs began to reflect a disenchantment with stark Modernism in favor of decoration and populism. His first major work in this style was the United States Embassy in New Delhi, India (1954), a white, columned box with an overhanging rectangular canopy, facades composed of lacy, concrete grilles, and surrounding fountains; these elements were designed to enhance ventilation and screen sunlight. According to Stone, Wright called it "one of the finest buildings of the past hundred years." Many of the embassy's themes and motifs were repeated for the rest of Stone's career with mixed results.

These later works were mostly deprecated by architectural critics, but were well-received by the general public. Ada Louise Huxtable denounced the John F. Kennedy Center (1969) in Washington, DC, as "the biggest box in the world." Nonetheless, Stone received major commissions around the world for the rest of his career. Other famous works include: 2 Columbus Circle (1962) and the General Motors Building (1968), both in New York City (1968), the Florida State Capitol (1969), and the campus of the State University of New York at Albany (1963).

Edward Durell Stone died in 1978.


National Trust for Historic Preservation, 2009.