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  Fay Jones, The Passing of an Architectural Legend
September 6, 2004



When I studied architecture at the University of Arkansas in the mid-1960s, the chairman of the Architecture Department (not yet elevated to the status of a “school”) was a quiet man named Euine Fay Jones. He went by “Fay.”


He taught design studios and architectural history and carried on a modest practice on the side where he designed homes, mainly around northwest Arkansas. In that day and place, houses designed by architects were rare and considered somewhat of an indulgence. Most of his clients had a little money but would certainly not be considered wealthy by today’s standards. Some would, however, still be recognized today – like Orville Faubus and Sam Walton.


Jones’ creations were masterpieces of native stone, brick glass, water, light and wood, with spaces often more worthy of cathedrals than homes. Although by today’s standards, Jones’ homes would be considered highly articulated and perhaps “decorative, “every detail had a functional purpose, Jones told us. Nothing was purely aesthetic. We made a lot of field trips, visiting a number of Jones’ designs, both under construction and completed. One my most memorable experiences was a class trip to Chicago where Jones led tours of several of the Wright-designed buildings in Oak Park where Wright lived and practiced for many years.


We knew that Jones had studied under Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West in Phoenix, and he had been instrumental in bringing Wright to Fayetteville for a lecture when I was still in high school. He told us a lot of stories about “Mr. Wright” over the years with a personal perspective one could get nowhere else. I believe it was this connection with Wright and another internationally famous Fayetteville native architect, Edward Durell Stone, that led to my interest in pursuing architecture. Incidentally, I later worked for Edward Durell Stone in his Palo Alto office in the early 1970’s.


After I graduated and left Arkansas, Fay Jones’ star as a professor and practicing architect continued to rise. He branched out of the Ozark hills and designed homes all over the country that were recognized by a string of awards. Then he started exploring chapels. Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs, an Ozark town where my father was born, became Jones crowning achievement.


At a White House ceremony in 1990, Jones was awarded the highest professional honor an American architect can receive, the Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects. In a national survey conducted by the AIA in 1991, participants ranked Jones as one of the country's "10 most influential living architects," placing him on a list that included I.M. Pei, Robert Venturi, Charles Moore, and Michael Graves. American architects also ranked Jones' Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs as one of the five best buildings by an American architect in the 20th century.


I stayed in touch with Fay over the years, dropping in on him and his wife, Gus, when I visited Fayetteville. I believe he had a special relationship with our architecture class of 1967 – a particularly high spirited but not necessarily highly talented group. My son and daughter-in-law, Andrew and Kim, were married in Thorncrown Chapel in 2002. Both graduated in architecture from the University of Arkansas.


The last time I visited with Fay was in April of this year in Fayetteville. He was slowed physically but in high spirits. He and several of his contemporary faculty members were greeting guests at a Habitat for Humanity revolving house tour where we all shared a few laughs about the old days when they were the wardens and we were the inmates of the architecture asylum. The home on tour was one of his earliest designs and had been carefully restored by its present owner.


Euine Fay Jones died at home in Fayetteville on Monday, August 30, 2004.


For more on Euine Fay Jones, see: