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Willows in the Amphitheatre. It was the note of exuberance and freshness in Stone's latest work that convinced the American Institute of Architects committee, charged with finding an architect for the U.S. State Department, that Stone was the man to design the Brussels pavilion. When he first visited the site two years ago, it was little more than a grassy, willow-studded park, staked out in a triangular plot, between the areas reserved for Vatican City and the U.S.S.R. Characteristically, he began sketching his design on the spot, seized on the site's natural amphitheater contours as the setting for a lofty, circular building. Leaving eleven giant willows in place, he resolved to build the pavilion over them, and include a wide interior balcony to give added area for exhibitions. He also decided to snuggle a circular, 1,150-seat auditorium half underground in the shoulder rise of the hill. "To frame and enclose such a huge space is an opportunity that doesn't come often to an architect," says Ed Stone. "Neither does the problem of spanning 350 feet. Why, you could put the University of Arkansas' football field in here and still have room." In the cloth velarium used by Roman emperors to cover the Colosseum, Stone found his solution to roofing the largest free-span circular building ever erected. He devised a bicycle-wheel system of cables, each under no tons' tension, to hold up the pavilion's 68,400 sq. ft. plastic outer roof.
To add glitter to the interior. Stone hung a mesh of thousands of sparkling, gold-anodized aluminum disks from the lower spokes of the roof. The hub, a tension ring 63 ft. across and weighing 25 tons, is dramatically suspended in midair and open to the sky above the central pool. To give the structure the maximum look of lightness, a trellis of light steel straps was used to hold the 42-ft.-high plastic walls rigid against the wind. Says Stone: "I'm not given to flexing my structural muscles publicly. But you can't say this building doesn't shout with steel. Why, you can almost hear those cables, and you can see every damned member."
Under the Wire. Good luck marked the U.S. Pavilion from the start. The World's Fair U.S. Commissioner-General Howard S. Cullman credits Stone's early planning, even before a final budget figure was available, with giving the U.S. the fast start that "was the difference between make or break." Belgium's top contractor, Emile Blaton. made the project his particular baby. As a result, the U.S. Pavilion, one of the last to get started in Brussels, is among the first to be completed. Even more remarkable is the fact that Architect Stone stayed within 1% of the State Department's original $5.000,000 building budget.