Thorncrown Chapel Voted Best, Most Timeless American Building of Past 60 Years

posted by James Lindsay

Thorncrown Chapel Wins Architect Magazine’s
‘Arch Madness 2015’

Before founding our firm, John Jackson and Bob Galloway were students together at The University of Arkansas in Fayetteville where they studied under the late AIA Gold Medal Award-winner E. Fay Jones, FAIA. Subsequent to graduating John also worked at Jones' private firm where he had the privilege of working with Jones on some of the drawings for Thorncrown Chapel, which won the American Institute of Architecture's 25-Year Award in 2006. 

Paralleling the March Madness basketball brackets, Architect Magazine just completed an Arch Madness bracket tournament, which pitted the 32 most recent AIA Twenty-Five Year Award winners against each other to determine which past winner “should be deemed the epitome of architectural excellence.” The winner: Thorncrown Chapel. In the final round, Thorncrown knocked out The Salk Institute, designed by Louis Kahn, FAIA. Other players in the earlier rounds included everything from the Gateway Arch by Eero Saarinen, to iconic high-rises like the John Hancock Center by SOM and the Seagram Building by Mies van der Rohe. Well loved museums like the Kimbell Art Center in Fort Worth by Louis Kahn, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in NYC by Frank Lloyd Wright, and the Menil Collection in Houston by Renzo Piano were also included. Fay Jones was an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright, and his only student to receive the AIA's Gold Medal.

Located near Eureka Springs, Arkansas, Thorncrown Chapel's design was inspired by gothic church forms and the concept of lightening the structure and walls to maximize the amount of transparency and natural light through the space. The wood trusses and glass walls of the 48-foot tall chapel reflect the surrounding trees and marry the interior space to the landscape. Jones also made a point of having a minimal impact to the surrounding site, with the structure having been built of local lumber “no larger than what two men could carry through the woods.” There is a peaceful elegance and humility to the architecture that invites the visitor to join in its connection to nature and the spiritual realm. A plaque at the door to the chapel reads, “Please Come In And Sit Awhile, Just As You Are.”

Jones’ humble attitude and distinctly American architectural sensibility are embodied in Thorncrown Chapel and many of his other works, and continue to inspire new generations of Architects. John Jackson and Bob Galloway each took Jones’ 5th-year design studio class at the University of Arkansas in the mid-1970's. 

The design staff at Jackson Galloway is proud to be among those who continue to be influenced by Fay Jones, and we celebrate Thorncrown’s win!