03 | Thorncrown Chapel | E. Fay Jones

The preservation of the existing environmental state of the site drove the design of Thorncrown Chapel. To minimize damage to the forest, Jones devised a construction strategy that limited access to vehicles. The materials needed to construct the building were carried to the site by hand. The construction was conceived as portable, with all components sized to not over-burden a two-man crew. Most critically, Jones envisioned the larger structural components as jointed assemblies comprised of numerous members. These tectonic constructions – built out of 2x4s, 2x6s, and 2x12s – were assembled on site and raised into place. The preservation of the forest not only provided a self-imposed limitation, but also contributed to the architectural language of the building.

In addition to assembly processes, the forest provided the inspiration for the conceptual design of Thorncrown. The building places its occupants at “an undecidable boundary between shelter and exposure, artifice and nature.”[1] The chapel is aligned with the place; it captures a small piece of the forest and encases it in glass. Nestled under the tree canopy, the chapel disappears in the forest, camouflaged in the distance as you approach from the parking lot.

iat - thorncrown - forest capture

Image | © Chad Schwartz

[1] Daniel Willis, The Emerald City and Other Essays on the Architectural Imagination (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1999), 210.