Chapel at Rio Roca Ranch / Maurice Jennings + Walter Jennings Architects

© Walter Jennings

Architect of Record: Maurice Jennings + Walter Jennings Architects
Project Location: Palo Pinto County, Texas, USA
Project Team: Maurice Jennings, Walter Jennings, Lori Yazwinski Santa-Rita, David Pullium
Consultants: HP Engineering (MEP), Myers-Beatty Engineering (Structural)
Project Area: 1,080 square feet
Project Year: 2010
Photographs:  Walter Jennings

Owner/Client: Rio Roca Ranch
Landscape Architect: Dan Sauerwein
General Contractor: English Heritage Homes (Michael Taylor Supervisor)
Products:  Lock-Deck Laminated Decking, Pine lumber, Lueders limestone

The Rio Roca Chapel is a carefully articulated wooden structure which is coupled with opulent textures and set against an awe-inspiring landscape. Its lightweight wood structure is braced elegantly with tension bars and turnbuckles, providing support for the walls and copper roof. The chapel’s configuration is essentially an intricate weaving of steel and wood flitch systems with tongue and groove decking above.

© Walter Jennings

The shift between plateau and river bluff is traversed by a stone retaining wall; through which visitors go through to enter the chapel, and after which the magnificent views of the Brazos River are exposed.

© Walter Jennings

The site’s axis runs east-west parallel along the river to capitalize on the landscape and view of School House Mountain, therefore the glazing present on corresponding exterior walls allows a relatively unobstructed view thorough the chapel. This transparent quality truly expresses the divine purpose of this building; the light filtered into the chapel primarily enters from above, and is playfully reflected and refracted throughout.

© Walter Jennings

The locale of the chapel, in a part of Texas dotted with oil and gas rigs, has determined the aesthetic quality of the detailing. While the forms of a well and this chapel are largely apart, the threaded connections, held in place by set screws, which allow for minor adjustment and tensioning are alike. The use of these connections, such as turnbuckles, also allows much of the wooden structure to be fabricated offsite.

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* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "Chapel at Rio Roca Ranch / Maurice Jennings + Walter Jennings Architects" 29 Aug 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 20 Sep 2014. <>


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    I totally agree. Before I saw the comments, as I was reading this I was thinking that my comment would say “Shameless copy of Thorncrown chapel.”

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      yeah that’s interesting, because when i was scrolling down, i was thinking, ‘I bet some boring wise-arse will say this project rips off the Thorncrown chapel.’

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        You are right–this is so similar to Thorncrown Chapel that it is almost cliche to say that it is.

        To reuse, redefine, and refine a respected architype of chapel design may not be notable, but it is still admirable. There is something valuable in delivering a beautiful design that has been born, not of totally new idea, but of an interative idea–building on the work of other architects. We can respect this design for the articulation of the parti, rather than for the parti itself.

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      “Maurice Jennings was a partner of E. Fay Jones and worked with him for 25 years”

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    You really make it appear so easy along with your presentation however I find this topic to be really one thing that I feel I might by no means understand. It sort of feels too complicated and very wide for me. I am looking ahead in your next post, I will attempt to get the grasp of it!

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