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Visitor Center (Information Center)
Colonial Williamsburg's attention to recapturing eighteenth-century design has often cast it as a conservative force, but the foundation patronized substantial modernist work from the 1950s through the 1980s. Best known is the Visitor Center, designed by Max Abramovitz with the Williamsburg architectural staff in anticipation of the 350th anniversary of Virginia settlement.
Unlike Merchants Square and other historicist buildings immediately adjoining the historic area, Abramovitz's suburban building is sufficiently big and bold for its functions of selling tickets, orienting visitors, and sending them off to the historic area on a fleet of gray buses. Nevertheless, the eaves and entrances were kept low to maintain a reserved sense of scale. Visitors are prepared, both historically and emotionally, by the Paramount film Williamsburg: The Story of a Patriot, directed by George Seaton and shown continually since 1957 in two theaters specially planned by film theater architect Benjamin Schlanger. Although the main public hall was redesigned by Cambridge Seven in 1985, the theaters remain precisely as built, with experimental screens developed for wide-format film and pierced stainless steel covering every surface, including stanchions used to separate moviegoers in order to enhance the personal nature of their experience of Seaton's film.
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