LeAnne Martin
Christians in the Arts

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Jane Wolford, Part 2:Fay Jones and Thorncrown Chapel

Dr. Jane Paradise Wolford seeks to "enlighten the public about the transformational potential of architecture." She has a Doctorate in Architecture (in History, Theory, and Criticism) as well as a Masters degree in Architectural History from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Wolford wrote architectural articles and conducted market research for more than two decades for a firm that provided market analysis and costing services. She currently researches and writes for The Greenway Group, in addition to other consulting projects. For more than a decade Wolford has spearheaded educational initiatives for advancing architectural education among the public in her active role as a Board Member of The AIA’s educational outreach, the American Architectural Foundation based in Washington D.C. She also serves on a small, select Board to preserve and run the Octagon Museum, the oldest museum in the U.S. dedicated to architecture and design. She's a founding member of the Design Futures Council for DesignIntelligence. Wolford lives in Atlanta and maintains active memberships in many professional organizations related to architecture, preservation, and sustainability. These include lifetime membership in the Society for Architectural Historians (SAH), the Southeast Chapter of Architectural Historian (SESAH), the Construction History Society, Southface, and The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.

LeAnne: Who are three architects (past or contemporary) whose work we must know and why?

The American architect Frank Lloyd Wright because he was probably the most famous American architect. He definitely marched to the beat of his own drummer and defied convention but he was unique in his perspective and extremely talented. After years of conflicted feelings studying his architecture and visiting his buildings I have decided that I am willing to separate the strength of his architecture from the frailty of his humanity (e.g., abandoned his wife with five young children to live with a married woman and her children --- Mrs. Cheney--- but that’s another story) because he was so uniquely talented. Features of his style reflected a comfortable human scale complemented by the warm, rustic features of stone, wood and other natural materials. The architectural features of some of his houses from the early twentieth century (such as low roof lines with overhanging eaves), often reflect a prairie aesthetic characteristic reflecting the long, flat vistas stretching for miles and miles in the Midwest. His most famous residence, Fallingwater, is a breathtaking alliance of architecture and nature --- perched on the edge of a waterfall.

The Swiss architect Le Corbusier ---because his architecture heralded the emerging modern aesthetic in the 1920s and 30s in Europe. His Villa Savoye (1929-1931) expressed the dictums of Modernism --- no ornamentation, white planar surfaces, suspended by pillars, an open plan free to be configured as the occupant desired, and long ribbon windows offering unencumbered views.

The American architect John Carl Warnecke is important because he was an early contextual architect who successfully merged modernism with a respect for the building’s context. As the focus of my doctoral and masters’ research, personal interviews with Warnecke for more than the last decade (by my husband Arol and myself) taught me about contextualism and its relationship with architecture. Designer of hundreds of buildings, a few of his most famous designs are President John Kennedy’s grave with the eternal flame and the Hawaiian State Capital (a modern building with a Polynesian flare). In addition to his architecture, he is also known for his romance with Jackie Kennedy after Jack died.

LeAnne: You and I attend the same church. Because of our church's recent building project, I've become fascinated with the award-winning Thorncrown Chapel, designed by Fay Jones. Can you tell me more about him, his work, and his relationship with mentor Frank Lloyd Wright?

E. Fay Jones was probably Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous apprentice. He is the other contextualist my husband and I had the pleasure of interviewing extensively and touring his most renowned building with him before he passed away in 2004.

Jones and Wright had an immediate rapport when they met while Jones was a professor. Jones’s entire family visited Wright in his winter workshop, Taliesin West, near Scottsdale, Arizona. Later, Wright invited Jones's entire family to his home and design institute Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin. Jones returned to both sites numerous times as both friend and apprentice and became a Taliesin Fellow.

A quiet, unassuming intellectual (also a strong Christian) who taught Architecture at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Jones’ most well-known buildings are chapels and residences in his home state (as opposed to ego-driven skyscrapers). Thorncrown Chapel, a small, breathtaking glass chapel nestled in the Ozarks, pays tribute to the beauty of nature created by God. Since it won The American Institute of Architects' coveted Gold Medal in 1990, pilgrims flock to it daily to enjoy its transcendent beauty. Jones' residences express the ultimate tenets of contextualism with nature. They blend gracefully in the Ozarks with their cladding of wood and stone; in this respect they give homage to Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie-style buildings.

When the design for our church was underway Fay Jones was already too ill with advanced Parkinson’s disease to become our church’s architect. However, he did advise John Busby (our architect), my husband (Arol Wolford), and myself about our church design. Ultimately, John Busby did a great job incorporating Jones’s principles, along with his own design expertise, into the finished product of our beautiful sanctuary.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There's a Fay Jones house about two blocks from my own in Siloam Springs. Made it to Thorncrowne on the second attempt, for a sunday morning service. First time there was a wedding going on. Thorncrowne is wonderful; don't know much about the house. Walked by once, but didn't want to give the residents the creeps.


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