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The Thorncrown non-denominational Chapel is perhaps one of our favorite examples of Organic Architecture, a philosophy of architecture which promotes harmony between human habitation and the natural world. thorncrown-chapel

The Concept

The concept was conceived by Jim Reed, a retired school teacher who loved the area so much that imagined building an retirement cabin there. His dream was then changed when he observed numerous tourists admiring the view. His son writes:

“[Jim] wasn’t the only one who admired his location, however, and people would often stop near his house to gain a better view of the beautiful Ozark hills. Instead of fencing them out, Jim chose to invite them in. He decided he and his wife should build a glass chapel in the woods to inspire their visitors.”



The Design

The chapel was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s student, Fay Jones. The “Glass Chapel,” located in the middle of the forests surrounding Arkansas’ Ozark Mountains is an astonishing structure, which rises 48 feet into the sky, is a 24-feet wide building, 60 feet long, contains 425 windows and over 6,000 square feet of glass.

thorncrown chapel


The Materials

Made of organic materials, the structure’s only use of steel forms a pattern shaped like a diamond amid its wooden trusses. The chapel also has a native flagstone floor. Every truss was made of local pine – “no larger than what two men could carry through the woods.” 2×4’s, 2×6’s and 2×12’s were assembled on site and subsequently erected, leaving minimal site impact. thorncrown-chapel-56



Since opening in 1980 the chapel has had more than 7 million people visiting. Less than 35 years old – yet it’s on the U.S. Historic register, has been named one of the AIA’s top ten buildings of the 20th century, and has even been called the best American building since 1980. Jones even won the AIA’s Gold Medal.



Archdaily. (n.d.). AD Classics: Thorncrown Chapel / E Fay Jones | ArchDaily. Retrieved from http://www.archdaily.com/533664/ad-classics-thorncrown-chapel-e-fay-jones/

Cnet. (n.d.). Inside Thorncrown Chapel, the Ozarks’ glass masterpiece – CNET. Retrieved from http://www.cnet.com/news/inside-thorncrown-chapel-the-ozarks-glass-masterpiece/

Enpundit. (n.d.). The Thorncrown Chapel — A Shining Example of Organic Architecture – Enpundit. Retrieved from http://enpundit.com/thorncrown-chapel-shining-example-organic-architecture/

Huffingtonpost. (n.d.). Arkansas’ Thorncrown Chapel Is The Glass Church In The Woods ‘So Close To God’ (PHOTOS). Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/21/arkansas-thorncrown-chapel_n_5515375.html