Thorncrown Chapel, one of the most exceptional pieces of U.S. architecture, is celebrating its 35th anniversary this June. Frank Lloyd Wright protégé E. Fay Jones designed the glass-enclosed Gothic-style house of worship, which has received international acclaim for its iconic design, use of locally sourced natural materials, and its sensitivity to the forested surroundings in Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains. The organic modern masterpiece was even listed as the fourth greatest building of the 20th century by the American Institute of Architects—a distinction that no doubt helped put a stop to a transmission line proposal that would have destroyed the chapel’s natural settings. In honor of Thorncrown Chapel’s 35th anniversary, photographer Randall Connaughton has produced new views of the landmark chapel—click through to see them all!
Built in 1980, Thorncrown Chapel was the vision of owner Jim Reed who hired Jones to create a glass chapel that would celebrate the beautiful Ozark Hills. Inspired by Paris’ Sainte Chappelle, Jones infused gothic inspiration with influences from the Prairie School of Architecture to create an “Ozark Gothic” style for the light-filled Thorncrown Chapel. Although its 1,440-square-foot floor plan may seem small, the chapel’s 48-foot-high ceilings and glazed facade make it feel anything but. Over 6,000 square feet of crystal-clear glass surround the chapel to give the building a sense of weightlessness that visually pulls in views of the forest and natural daylight.
Vertical and diagonal cross-tension trusses made from local pine support the Thorncrown Chapel’s dramatic folded roof. The wood is hand-rubbed with a gray stain to match the bark and stone in the landscape. All of the structural elements were cut no larger than what could be carried through the woods—so as not to disturb the natural surroundings—and then assembled on the floor and raised into place. The floor is lined with cool-toned flagstone and surrounded by a rock wall to allude to the Ozark Mountains. The immense glass walls overlook the ever-changing landscape.