Fay Jones School of Architecture Addition
University of Arkansas
Every reader of this blog is probably familiar with the name Frank Lloyd Wright, famous for his works of architecture and infamous for the abuse of his students. But that’s the topic of another future blog posting. Some of Wright’s students actually became famous by their own right; one of which is architect E. Fay Jones. Back in 1993, while on a bus trip with my Mom, I had the opportunity to visit Thorncrown Chapel. This beautiful piece of architecture, design by Fay Jones and constructed in 1980, is located in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
The idea of a tiny chapel in the woods was conceived by Jim Reed, a retired school teacher who originally bought the property on which the chapel now stands to build his retirement home. But the intrinsic beauty of the property, and the constant flood of visitors traipsing over his land, led Reed to build a welcoming place for these trespassers rather than shooing them off.
The structure is built mostly out of indigenous materials, which greatly reduced the cost of its construction. The close spacing of the tall vertical slender members mimic the trees of the surrounding woods. The natural stone path leading up to the chapel continues inside and combined with the structure’s soaring vertical height, the viewer’s perception of inside versus outside is continuously blurred.
The architect-designed, custom fabricated light fixtures which are continuously lit emit a low amber glow, similar to a campfire, that add an extra special touch to the ambience that only add to experience that you are truly in a very special place.
To honor the legacy of Fay Jones and his many years of teaching, the University of Arkansas named the School of Architecture building on its campus after the former faculty member. Originally designed and constructed in 1935 to be the university’s library, this Beaux Arts building has served as the school of architecture since 1968. Now a planned addition, designed by Marlon Blackwell, FAIA, once again illustrates that today’s architects have not a clue as to what they are doing.
Check out this rendering which shows the protruding stone clad eyesore poking out into the fore court of this once grand edifice. It makes me want to grab a giant pair of pruning shears and lob it off at the root ball. What an abhorrent disgrace.
The new addition bears no resemblance to the surrounding structures, which architects refer to as contextualism. It makes no attempt to interpret in modern way the classical proportions or banding of its handsome neighbors. And where the hell are the windows? It’s bad enough that architecture students spend a disproportionate amount of their time slaving over projects for their studio classes, but to deprive them of any kind of connection to the outdoors is just cruel, thoughtless, and an abomination in every sense of the word. Love the hovering protruding mass out over the landscaped beds. When I was in architecture school, we spent weeks studying how buildings meet the ground. I guess this idiot never thought that marrying the building to the site was an important concept to master.The AIA’s published critique of this piece of crud says “the completed project promises to be a symbiotic hybrid of historic and modern, the process by which that hybrid arrives is really a radical departure from the way architecture has been created in the past.”  HUH? What are these guys smoking?
And the architect that designed this claptrap wrote: “This project provides a forward spirit for the university, informed by the old, but decidedly new.”  UGH. This is exactly why I will never achieve fellow status with the AIA. This building is horrible and it’s embarrassing that it’s a attached to the school of architecture and associated with an institution of higher learning. We have got to start speaking out and demanding better performance from architects.