The State Legislative Building Opened 50 Years Ago Today

“In late 1959, Thomas J. White, a former state representative of North Carolina and a powerful figure in the state’s political circles, was appointed chairman of the commission to build the new North Carolina State Legislative Building. The commission had already heard from a number of North Carolina architects who had expressed a strong interest in the project. Ralph B. Reeves, Jr., of Holloway & Reeves in Raleigh, one of the larger firms in the southeast at the time and one of eleven firms that made presentations to the commission for the project, had sought [Edward Durell] 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 & Reeves firms were awarded the contract for the building in early December. Almost immediately, there were objections to Stone’s selection.

Henry L. Kamphoefner, who was dean of the North Carolina State College School of Design (later the north Carolina State University College of Design), wrote in an article for the Raleigh News & Observer in early January 1960:

If the award had to leave North Carolina, why did not the building commission appoint one of the half dozen or more great men of architecture. Why not France’s Le Corbusier? Or why not Mies van der Rohe of Chicago? Or why not Walter Gropius of Boston? Or why not Richard Neutra of Los Angeles?

True, Edward Stone is a good architect, but in critical circles he does not rank with the world’s greatest men who are practicing architecture today. He appears as the man who is getting the greatest amount of current publicity because he did a building very much in the world news, the American Pavilion at the Brussels Fair, and a fine embassy for the United States at New Delhi, where he introduced an indigenous device, the grille. Since the New Delhi embassy, he has parlayed the grille into a gimmick for indiscriminate use in California, South Carolina, or where have you.

Kamphoefner’s view of ‘great men’ clearly meant ‘modern men,’ or more precisely, ‘European modern men.’ Overlaying this critique was the fact that Stone and Kamphoefner had a history of antagonism dating back many years. At a cocktail party given by Douglas Haskell, early in his tenure as editor of Architectural Forum (from 1949 to 1964), Stone, likely intoxicated, had insulted Kamphoefner by loudly announcing upon entering the room, ‘There are three things that are overrated, home cooking, home *^%!$#!, and Henry Kamphoefner.’ Haskel had added wryly, ‘Well Henry, at least you’re in good company.’ Outwardly, until Stone’s later work, Kamphoefner and Stone would have been in alignment: both of them were admirers of Frank Lloyd Wright and Buckminster Fuller, and both were adherents of modernism. What had turned them against one another is unclear. The News & Observer article was not the last time that Kamphoefner would publicly attack Stone.”

From Edward Durell Stone: A son’s untold story of a legendary architect by Hicks Stone. Legislators moved into the Stone-designed building on Jones Street on February 6, 1963.

Working with Holloway & Reeves, Stone and his firm also designed the East Building of the North Carolina Museum of Art. The East Building opened in 1983 and was Stone’s last work before his death. The building underwent major transformation as part of a three-year project by the N.C. Museum of Art in the mid-2000s. Stone and his firm also served as architects for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and National Geographic Building in Washington, D.C. and the Huntington Hartford Gallery of Modern Art in New York City.

In Edward Durell Stone, Hicks Stone quotes his father’s colleague Ernie Jacks describing the scheme behind the Legislative Building design.

“For the State House, we produced what I still believe was a beautiful piece of intricate planning—one of those examples which the Boss referred to as an ‘inevitable plan.’ We couldn’t imagine it being arranged any other way. All the innumerable spaces seemed to fit together perfectly, both two- and three-dimensionality…I always have thought of it as an apt response to those who criticized our symmetrical designs as being ‘forced,’ and also as an illustration of Nietzche’s observation,’To welcome difficulty then to overlay it with the appearance of simplicity—that is a work of art.”

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