Wednesday, March 04, 2009

stoneflower: the road to thorncrown

E. Fay Jones with "Stoneflower" residence rendering
Photo by Al Drap, Fay Jones Papers, Special Collections,
University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville

if people have heard of the architect e. fay jones, one of frank lloyd wright's more famous contemporaries, chances are they have also heard of the chapel which is considered his masterpiece opus: thorncrown. nestled in a small corner of an ozark woodland, near the town of eureka springs, arkansas--thorncrown's inspiration came from a retired teacher who would always delight in allowing guests to take in the view of the surrounding hills after an invigorating hike. it is essentially a spiritual rest stop for the soul.

the structure doesn't even seem like a building at all, as the light and foliage seem to penetrate and shatter every enclosure suggested by the chapel. one might say that the greatest success of the chapel wasn't the architecture itself, but instead achieving a place to where the the exterior of the landscape and the interior of soul may interact, unimpeded.

"stoneflower" at eden isle, arkansas
photo by timothy hursley

but rarely even mentioned is the project before the masterpiece. why not? isn't each single sketch of michelangelo's figure studies just as important as the sistine ceiling itself? without the study, there would be no result. therefore, we offer a view of a modest home which fay jones used as experimental grounds before the legendary chapel: stoneflower.

designed and built with limited means, the house was a result of an exchange of land for services-a pair of landscape architects traded design work on the surrounding resort community for the particular piece of property. upon hiring fay jones, the budget sat at a meager $25,000 while also contributing physical labor in constructing the house's stone foundations.

lower level floor plan
courtesy of fay jones & maurice jennings

the house contains very unexpected spatial qua lites--an exercise in duality of sorts with the lower level hidden behind stone walls, and shaped in a primitive, cavernous-like way and the more rational upper level possessing qualities such as light, air, tectonic expression. the lower level is certainly more intuitive, but no less refined containing a fireplace, soaking pool, skylights above, and a waterfall emerging from the rock ledge shelves. carl jung might find refuge here...

waterfall and skylight at lower level
photo by balthazar korab

the upper level is almost immediately recognizable with it's volume, proportion and use of glass. although the chapel boasts an amazing number of 425 windows, the residence focuses the daylight and views on the long axis. the high glass openings lead out to an elevated deck having the same exact footprint of the interior space and a view towards greer's ferry lake. the proportions of the house are exactly half of thorncrown, measuring 12'x30' and 24' tall. the height of the vertical wall requires additional lateral stability, resulting in a familiar pattern of bracing near the roof. the lumber at the column framing has been doubled, and set apart to reveal shadows of tectonic mystery of lightness in such a tall room.

view through the living room towards the lake
photo by balthazar korab

main level floor plan
drawing by fay jones & maurice jennings, architects

the separation of the two levels addresses some intriguing ideas about how to build in harmony with the land. it is as if the lower level, made of stone, was always there-- a ruin of some obsolete structure given a new life. the light timber framed upper level seems to hover above the land as the only discernible man-made intervention on the landscape.

long section
drawing by fay jones & maurice jennings, architects

while the limitations of budget may have kept this house from becoming widely celebrated and published, the lessons it taught its creator are widely seen in the halls of thorncrown.

all images are shown from the book "FAY JONES" by robert adams ivy, jr.



Peter W. said...

artofwhere! i thoroughly enjoyed your post about little thorncrown, Jones' stoneflower. i am an architect in memphis (via michigan, alaska, nyc) and recently saw an image of this house. i have been looking for more information ever since. your blog entry is great, and this house deserves more recognition. ironically i have been to eden isle many times as my wife's family has a weekend house there. next time we go i will be asking hardscrable grey haired locals where the house is located...i'll be armed with the photos and drawings you've posted. thanks!


Peter W. said...

artofwhere! it just got easier to find stoneflower. apparently its been acquired by the nearby eden isle establishment red apple inn. now anyone (except for children and old people) can stay there overnight.

with her own family lakehouse in the neighborhood, i wonder if my wife will be ok with the $200 tab. i'm guessing not...but it's worth a shot.

thanks again for the post!


archaalto said...

very cool. thanks for the update. i think staying in a master's work of architecture for that price isn't too bad, especially if it is next to a lake.

greersferrygirl said...

Peter this home has been sold to a individual from Searcy AR and has been completely renovated and added additional living area and doesn't resemble the original structure at all... Sorry if you didn't stay in this old home before it was butchered but it isn't the same home.