Edward Durell Stone: A Son's Untold Story of a Legendary Architect

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Edward Durell Stone: A Son's Untold Story of a Legendary Architect. By Hicks Stone. (New York: Rizzoli International, 2011. Pp. 334. Illustrations, notes, bibliography, acknowledgments, index. $85.00.)

Edward Durell Stone, a son of Fayetteville, Arkansas, was a celebrity before the word became a Hollywood noun. His architecture leftits imprint on every continent. He was the principal designer or actively involved in the design of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, the United States Embassy in New Delhi, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the American Pavilion at the Brussels World's Fair, and scores of other public and private structures from Peru to Croatia. Those products of his imagination either ennobled the planet's landscape or despoiled it, depending on the point of view of the swarm of critics who followed his work.

In his adopted hometown of New York, where celebrity counts, he was on every hostess's guest list. He and his glamorous second wife were regulars in the city's society columns. They ran with the powerful and the famous from coast to coast.

His son Hicks-born to that second wife, Maria-has written the first full-length biography of Stone, except for the architect's own rather folksy and incomplete autobiography published in 1962. The son is unsparing on his father's flaws. Ed Stone was a blissfully indiscreet philanderer. He smoked, ate, and drank too much. He had no regard for money except in spending it and was always on the verge of going broke. He was a lackadaisical student from Fayetteville High School to the University of Arkansas to the Harvard School of Architecture to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He never finished a college degree.

For all his faults, Ed Stone was a giant among architects. Hicks Stone believes that his father's reputation has been unjustly diminished by critics and academics. During the later years of his career, it became fashionable to disparage his work. One measure of an architect's success is the profession's highest honor, the Gold Medal. His friend E. Fay Jones won it; Stone never did, thanks, perhaps, to the professional purists who were offended by his post-modern and generously ornamented designs.

Hicks aims to restore his father's place in history. He offers a ringing defense and ticks offhis accomplishments with a scholarly assessment that should silence the naysayers. He acknowledges that Stone's work was sometimes uneven, especially during his later years. But Hicks himself is an architect and knows how to dismantle the arguments of the critics. He also knows how to write.

Ed Stone was born in Fayetteville in 1902. He and J. W. Fulbright were boyhood pals and remained close all their lives. Stone was less studious than his buddy; he preferred the company of girls to the sobriety of the study hall. …