Edward Durell Stone, 76, who died Sunday in New York City's Roosevelt Hospital after a brief illness, was among the first American architects to rebel against the stark and functional International Style
"I'm going to bat for beauty," he declared early in 1950s. One of his most famous hits is Washington's Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with its temple-like roof overhang and gilded columns.
The Kennedy Center is an enlarged version of Mr. Stone's U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, a sumptuous looking building, completed in 1959, which at once established his popularity and his personal style.
The hallmark of that style are grilles, which Mr. Stone often used like veils over the glasswalls of his buildings, and white, romanticized classic forms.
Mr. Stone used these devices, together or separately, in practically all of the many buildings he designed in the late 1950's and 1960's.Among the most notable of them are the National Geographic Building in Washington, D.C., the General Motors headquarters building in New York City, the U.S. Pavillion at the Brussels World's Fair, and the Huntington Hartford Museum (now the New York State Cultural Center) in New York City. He once even designed a filling station in the highly decorative style of the New Delhi embassy.
Structurally there is nothing different between Mr. Stone's buildings and those by other modern architects who worked with steel and glass. Mr. Stone used his grilles and classic trimmings as decoration. Some critics said that he "gift wrapped" his buildings.
Mr. Stone also liked to use opulent interiors - plush red velvet-covered walls and ceilings, white marble, rich walnut panels and crystal chandeliers. He was among the first architects, after Frank Lloyd Wright, to use hanging plants as a permanent design element.
In the tradition of Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles Follen McKim and some other American architects, Mr. Stone worked hard on being a celebrity and a dandy, although he rarely missed an opportunity to remark with mock modesty that he was "just, a barefoot boy from Arkansas."
Newspapers and news magazines made a great hoopla over his second marriage in 1954 to Maria Elena Torch, a dimunitive peppery woman from Cleveland, who turned him a into a tectotaler and romantic rather than functional designer. "After marrying Maria, Ed went from the bar to the grille." Some New York wits remarked. The grilles outlasted the marriage.
Before the grilles and a relatively unproductive period. Mr. Stone was on the way to prominence as a straight, modern architect. Frank Lloyd Wright having been considered not modern enough the trustees of New York City's Museum of Modern Art selected the young Stone to design their first museum on West 59th Street in tandem with Philip L. Goodwin. Combining design ideas of both Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe, it was one of the first International Style buildings in this country.
Mr. Stone was born on March 9, 1902 in Fayetteville, Ark., a small university town. His first success in architecture came when he won a $2.50 prize for a birdhouse in a competition sponsored by a local lumberyard.
A few years later young Stone's older brother, who already was an architect, led Mr. Stone blindfolded to the middle of Brooklyn Bridge. When the wraps came down, the young man needed no further persuasion that architecture was exciting.
Mr. Stone won a scholarship to Harvard and later to MIT and then traveled extensively in Europe, studying the great masterworks of Western architecture. Throughout his life he peppered his conversation with references to Greek temples and Italian Renaissance palaces.
On his return to this country, he worked on Eockefeller Center, particularly Radio City Music Hall. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army Air Corps and was involved in airfield design.
Mr. Stone leaves his third wife, Violet Campbell Moffat; a child from that marriage. Fiona Campbell Stone, and three sons from previous marriages. One of these sons, Edward D. Stone Jr., is a prominent landscape architect.