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An Architect's Trend-Setting
Home for the Fair
"They say people are fundamentally interested in only three things - food, sex and shelter. I can't say I'm authoritative on the first two, although I'm in favor of both. It's shelter that concerns me, and it's nice to be doing something people are interested in." - Edward Durell Stone

Architectural Model

produced by John Peter
photographed by Phillip Harrington

SOURCE: Look Magazine, February 11, 1964 (layout altered slightly for web readability)

Architect Edward Durell Stone, whose U.S. pavilion was the hit of the 1958 Brussels World's Fair, has every reason to be confidently relaxed about the home he has designed for this World's Fair. Sharing a landscaped site with a traditional and a contemporary house in The House of Good Taste exhibit, it will be visited by more people than any other all-out modern home in history and may well be the most influential, thought-provoking home ever built. Shown above is the scale model.

Those who prefer a traditional house might dismiss this one as too modern. Those who prefer modern design might quickly label it as too conservative and formal. Both judgments would be hasty. For, paradoxically, Stone's trend-setter offers a striking answer to America's most modern problem - the density dilemma - in a traditional way that dates back to ancient Mediterranean cultures.

The World's Fair House is a three-dimensional dramatization of Stone's deeply felt convictions about how people will live. As he explains it: "If the colonies had been settled by the French or Spanish, we would have fallen heir to a completely different tradition. The ancient Pompeians, for example, built their houses wall to wall, presenting a solid front to the street. Behind this stretched a beautiful atrium (a lighted room) and an open courtyard with all the rooms grouped around it." Adapting this idea, Stone created a house that looks inward and develops its personality from the character of the individual family. Walls enclose virtually all of the site. Windows look out on the cloistered gardens that serve as buffer zones between street and neighbors.

However, our housing traditions are Anglo-Saxon. Our Colonial ancestors sought to live in the manner of the English country squire - a freestanding house on a private plot of land. "As a result," says Stone, "the suburbs of our cities are today being used up by little boxes set on handkerchief lawns ... which is the most impractical way in the world to build dwellings. I think we should stop kidding ourselves and recognize that our land is very precious. We had better cloister our houses and be less wasteful of it. By building wall to wall, with enclosed courtyards, we also gain that other precious commodity so essential to peace and tranquility - privacy."

Edward Durell Stone
(Above) This view of Fair house model in Stone's New York City drafting room shows square roof with latticed overhang, central glass dome. Walls to property lines enclose open courtyards off each corner bedroom.
(Right) These three compact plans show how the Fair house can be built wall to wall in space-saving cluster communities without loss of privacy. Center version uses atrium as living room; bottom, without dining room, is three bedroom plan.
Model - Plan I
Model - Plan II
Model - Plan III

A Home with Three Plans for Privacy

Edward Durell Stone's World's Fair House is significant for two reasons: He tackles the fundamental problem posed by our soaring population - the need to live closer together. His solution is a house of beautiful simplicity and style. It centers around a spacious atrium, a 1,026-square-foot room with a 22-foot faceted glass dome. (The all-out World's Fair version will include a 6-foot circular reflecting pool.) This is the heart of the home and the key to Stone's design. All other rooms are planned around the central core, as shown in illustrations at right. These give you a clue to the house's versatility, but none to its warmth and livability.

The real house at the Fair will feature many innovations, from rugged new white wall paneling on the exterior to oil-finished teak panels on the interior. It will be handsomely furnished by decorator Sarah Hunter Kelly, from fine art to a fine kitchen; landscaped for minimum maintenance by Clarke & Rapuano, with flowering trees and rose gardens off each bedroom.

Not everyone will find this his "perfect" house. But all will agree that Stone has designed something exciting to see and challenging to think about. After all, that's why we have World's Fairs.

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