By ROY REED, The New York Times
Fay Jones, an architect whose organically sensitive designs for houses, chapels and churches drew on early training with his mentor Frank Lloyd Wright, died on Monday at his home in Fayetteville, Ark. He was 83. The cause was heart and lung failure, said his wife, Mary Elizabeth. He also had Parkinson's disease, she said.
Mr. Jones, who was one of Wright's best-known pupils, created the Ozark style of architecture, a term he considered misleading because his work extends from coast to coast and can be seen in cypress swamps, cotton fields and crowded urban lots as well as on the hills of his native Arkansas.
His award-winning designs typically relied on stone, cedar siding, wood shingles and discreet lighting. In 1990 he received the American Institute of Architects' Gold Medal, its highest honor, and a Rome Prize Fellowship in 1980, among many other accolades. He was the first of Wright's Taliesin Fellows to receive the gold medal. Prince Charles, whose criticism of some modern architecture had raised hackles in Britain, spoke admiringly of the Jones style at the awards ceremony.
In 2000 Mr. Jones's Thorncrown Chapel in the Arkansas Ozarks was voted the fourth-best building of the 20th century by the American Institute of Architects after Wright's Fallingwater and the Chrysler and Seagram buildings in Manhattan.
His clients included Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, and Orval E. Faubus, the longest-serving governor of Arkansas. Bill Clinton lived in one of Mr. Jones's houses when he returned to Arkansas from Yale Law School in 1973 to teach, and a year later Hillary Rodham lived in another one when she moved to Fayetteville to join her future husband.
Mr. Jones's career spanned more than a half-century, beginning with summers at Wright's Taliesin teaching compounds in Wisconsin and Arizona. In those places he perfected his skill as a draftsman and drew inspiration from Wright's ideas on organic architecture. Those concepts had been distilled from Wright's mentor, Louis Sullivan, and could be loosely described as "form follows function." Mr. Jones believed that every design should begin with function, then move to form and style.
Mr. Jones was regarded in some quarters as a regionalist, which is a little like labeling William Faulkner a Southern writer. It did not help his reputation among certain critics that he had little taste for modern designs that pointedly broke with the past; his work was firmly rooted in the classics.
His most famous chapel, Thorncrown in Eureka Springs, Ark., was a reverse play on European Gothic cathedrals. It was inspired especially by the 13th-century Ste.-Chapelle in Paris. The authors of "Architecture in North America Since 1960" described his method there: "At Thorncrown, he reverses the Gothic characteristic of a heavy compressive structure of stone and makes its inverse as a light tensile structure of wood."
In a biography, "Fay Jones,'' Robert Adams Ivy Jr., editor of Architectural Record, writes, "This harmoniously unified masterpiece is arguably among the 20th century's great works of art."
Thorncrown is tall and narrow, built of glass, wood and stone. Mr. Jones used a stabilizing device believed to be new at the time, crossed-wood bracing near the ceiling running most of the length of the building. Each brace is two lengths of two-by-four lumber joined by hollow steel joints that produce "a diamond fretwork of light'' that creates "the illusion of infinity," Mr. Ivy writes.
One of Mr. Jones's most ambitious projects was not completed. Tom Monaghan, the founder of Domino's Pizza, commissioned a palatial house at Ann Arbor, Mich., in 1988. Four years into the project, with construction well under way and with $3 million to $4 million already spent by Mr. Jones's estimate, Mr. Monaghan suddenly halted the project. He had just read C. S. Lewis's "Mere Christianity" and was stricken by a chapter on greed. He shifted his attention to building a Roman Catholic college in Florida.
Mr. Jones designed 135 houses and 15 chapels and churches in 20 states from California to Massachusetts and from Florida to Colorado. Most were in Arkansas. He designed an assortment of other structures, including fountains, gardens, pavilions and commercial buildings. He once designed an auto repair shop, but the brothers who owned the business quarreled before it was built.
Besides Thorncrown, his other well-known sacred structures include the Mildred B. Cooper Memorial Chapel in Bella Vista, Ark., and the Marty Leonard Chapel in Fort Worth.
Mr. Jones had no interest in skyscrapers, but he did drafting work on one, the Price Tower in Bartlesville, Okla., when he was apprenticed to Wright.
Euine Fay Jones was born on Jan. 31, 1921, at Pine Bluff, Ark., to Euine Fay Jones and Candy Louise Alston Jones. He grew up in El Dorado, Ark., where his parents moved to run a restaurant. As a boy he liked to draw and to build treehouses. One burned when a spark from its brick fireplace escaped. He became interested in architecture when he saw a movie short subject in 1938 on Wright's new Johnson's Wax headquarters in Racine, Wis.
He studied engineering for two and a half years at the University of Arkansas, then earned a degree in its new architecture program in 1950. He received a master's degree in 1951 at Rice University in Houston. Two years earlier at an A.I.A. convention in Houston, a chance encounter with Wright led to a lasting connection. His first Taliesin Fellowship was in 1953.
He taught architecture at the University of Oklahoma from 1951 to 1953.
Mr. Jones flew dive bombers for the Navy in World War II, and spent 15 months in the Pacific, though not in combat.
Besides his wife, Mr. Jones is survived by two daughters, Janis Jones of St. Louis, and Cami Jones of Austin, Tex.