Thorncrown Chapel is a chapel located in Eureka Springs, Arkansas - designed by E. Fay Jones and constructed in 1980. The design recalls Prairie School architecture - popularized by Frank Lloyd Wright, with whom Jones had apprenticed and was commissioned by Jim Reed, a retired schoolteacher.
Constructed mostly of wood and other materials indigenous to northwestern Arkansas, the design minimized material transportation costs. Though giving the impression of an open-air structure, the chapel is nonetheless a glass-enclosed, conditioned space.
The building was selected for the 2006 Twenty-five Year Honor Award by the American Institute of Architects, recognizing structures that have had significant influence on the profession. The chapel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000 Buildings less than fifty years old can only be listed on the Register if they are of exceptional significance Thorncrown was listed fourth on the AIA's top ten buildings of the 20th century. When alive, Mr. Jones was recognized as one of the top ten living architects of the 20th century.
The chapel rises 48 feet into the sky with over 6,000 square feet of glass and 425 windows. Its dimensions are 24 feet by 60 feet. The chapel is made with all organic materials to fit its natural setting. The only steel in the structure forms a diamond shaped pattern in its wooden trusses. The building has a native flagstone floor surrounded with a rock wall which gives the feeling that the chapel is part of its Ozark hillside.
In order to preserve Thorncrown's natural setting, Fay decided that no structural element could be larger than what two men could carry through the woods. The building materials are primarily pressure treated pine 2x4s, 2x6s, and 2x12s. The larger elements of the building such as the trusses were assembled on the floor and raised into place.
Light, shadows, and reflections play a major role in Thorncrown's ambiance. Because of the chapel's elaborate trusses and the surrounding trees, constantly changing patterns of light and shadows appear during the day. At night reflections of the crosses in the lights appear to surround the entire building. Consequently, Thorncrown never looks quite the same. Its appearance changes during each hour of the day and during the different seasons of the year.