Fay Jones Archive Unveiled at University of Arkansas

June 19, 2009

By Aleksandr Bierig

Fay Jones
Photo courtesy University of Arkansas
Fay Jones in his office, ca. 1960.

The University of Arkansas recently opened to the public its archive of work by Fay Jones, the noted Arkansas architect who combined the architectural traditions of the Southeastern United States with a Wrightian sensibility, producing such masterpieces as Thorncrown Chapel (1980). 

The collection spans Jones’ professional and academic career, between the founding of his studio in 1954 and his retirement in 1998. The opening coincides with the renaming of the university’s architecture school as the Fay Jones School of Architecture, honoring the man who defined the school for decades. Jones taught there for 35 years and served as its first dean.

Jones was among the most successful Frank Lloyd Wright acolytes, having lived and worked at Taliesin in 1953 but subsequently finding his own architectural voice. In his 1992 book about Jones, RECORD’s editor-in-chief Robert Ivy noted: “Jones has, more than any other Wright disciple, fulfilled Wright’s wish, contributing an architecture with ‘forms of his own devising.’”

A fellow of the AIA, Jones won the prestigious Gold Medal in 1990. He passed away in 2004 at the age of 83, and is survived by his wife, Elizabeth “Gus” Jones, and two daughters.

The archive is an expansive record of Jones’ career, encompassing a range of professional, personal, and academic materials. It holds 22,000 drawings, covering his roughly 200 projects, built and unbuilt, from concept to detailing. Some 20,000 slides document his completed buildings and his travels. The architect’s work is further illustrated through appointment books, correspondence with clients, and lecture notes, among many other artifacts. The material was donated to the university by Jones and his wife between 1997 and 2009.

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Ellen Compton, curator of the collection, says the material was processed and cataloged over the last six years. Now complete, Compton says the archive is “like a lab for the architecture school,” a place where professors can bring their students to study the waning art of drafting by hand. Compton has also fielded inquiries from a number of scholars doing research on Jones’ work.

Further information on the archive, including an online index of Jones’ buildings, can be found through the University of Arkansas Libraries

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