Home & Garden: Modern Light
Architect’s legacy lives in Monterey County and the world.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
It is said that shortly after the Community Hospital of Monterey Peninsula officially opened its doors in 1962, a group of healthy Pebble Beach women, thinking it was a spa, wanted to check in for a few weeks.
Standing in CHOMP’s Fountain Court, it is easy to see why the women hoped to come to the hospital to relax. In the square pool in the center of the room, torpedo-shaped koi languidly glide through the water, while the calming sound of splashing water emanates from a couple of fountains. A small, inviting circular island overflows with deep-green plants that suggest a tropical paradise.
Scattered throughout the 338,000-square-foot complex are four more atriums. Inside these rooms, concrete walls are decorated with a simple recurring pattern – a small square enclosed by two larger squares – and the outside light rains down through a colander-like roof riddled with skylights.
Designed by Edward Durell Stone, who died in 1978, CHOMP has many of the popular architect’s trademark features on display, including indoor pools, decorated walls, skylights and courtyards. The prolific Stone is known for many buildings around the world, including New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. embassy in New Delhi, India. He also designed Seaside City Hall.
Stone’s son, Hicks, says his father tried to “humanize modern architecture” by bringing a “warmth and scale” to his buildings. With more austere modernist sensibilities, the elder Stone also merged the highly decorative architecture of ancient Rome, ancient Greece and the Italian renaissance.
The younger Stone notes that all of his father’s designs sought to bring natural light indoors. “He had a fascination with light and the way it filtered through architectural elements,” Hicks Stone says.
Amy Essick, CHOMP’s full-time arts curator, observes that the natural light that fills the building seems to have a positive effect on people in the hospital. “His interiors are very calming,” she says. “They are very light-filled.”
Hicks Stone also points out his father’s use of water features and planters within his structures. “Dad wanted to bring nature into the indoor environment,” he says.
Throughout the hospital, many of the building’s passageways lead to large windows with views of the surrounding forest or one of the facility’s many courtyards.
“Personally, in spending so much time in this building, I respect his relationship with this site,” Essick says of the design. “You are always connected with nature.”
Hicks Stone believes that his father’s childhood reveals why he strove to use so many natural elements in his work. Edward Durell Stone grew up in the rural Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. “He was very much a country boy,” Hicks Stone says. “He lived a Huck Finn kind of life.”
Before embarking on large-scale commercial projects, Stone made a name for himself designing modernist residences, including the Richard Mandel House and the A. Conger Goodyear House, both in New York. The two structures are pristine white structures notable for their floor-to-ceiling glass walls and the way they drape horizontally over the landscape.
While Hicks Stone believes that most of his father’s major theories are not as prominent in contemporary architecture as they should be, many of Edward Durell Stone’s ideas sound tailor-made for Monterey County’s nature enthusiasts. For those who want to be environmentally friendly, including skylights will cut down on electricity use. In addition, Stone’s use of large windows could highlight the area’s scenery, from the twisting trunks of Monterey Cypress trees to the great blue canvas of the Pacific Ocean.