illuminating the next 50 years
Opening Spaces is a vital capital project focused on enriching the Rothko Chapel experience by preserving the Chapel as a unique public art site and spiritual space, and featuring a new north campus and expanded green spaces.
In June 2017 the master site plan was approved by the Board of Directors. Over the next twelve months the Chapel collaborated with design partners to develop an innovative and holistic architectural, landscaping and lighting intervention that pays tribute to the Chapel's original design while addressing critical infrastructure needs. The design approach and materials for the Opening Spaces project were informed by a year-long feasibilty study guided by the goals of the project and the founders' original intent. This process involved extensive historical research; interviews and consultations with a wide range of primary sources; analysis of existing building conditions; investigations into the building's construction and previous interventions; community conversations and feedback; and the preparation of numerous rehabilitation and planning options. Central to the project are sustainability plans and efforts to ensure the landmark's future for generations to come.
The master plan re-envisions the Chapel's campus and facilities through the following elements:
The skylight, lighting design and entryway of the Chapel will be reconfigured, allowing for a more profound and better illuminated interaction with both art and space. The vestibule will be returned to an open configuration providing a seamless transition between the entrance and sanctuary. Critical preservation initiatives and upgrades will help to ensure that Mark Rothko's extraordinary paintings and their environment are preserved and experienced as they were intended by Mark Rothko and John and Dominique de Menil. The restored Rothko Chapel building will enhance the visitor's engagement with the artwork and the sense of sanctuary that facilitates community connection and dialogue.
Envisioned as the gateway to the expanded campus, the new Visitor Welcome House will embody a core value of the Chapel's founding vision—hospitality—for those seeking further engagement with the Chapel's mission, history, and programming. Relocation of visitor services from the Chapel vestibule to this new welcome house will reinforce the spiritual and meditative aspects of the Chapel, heightening the visitor experience. The Visitor Welcome House will feature didactic and historical displays, an expanded gift shop and bookstore, and will serve as a gathering point for groups and guided tours.
Relocating the Chapel's mechanical and control systems from below-ground to a second-story energy facility with a backup chiller and generator will help to ensure environmental stability for the Chapel through weather emergencies. Landscape and drainage improvements will also work to safeguard the campus.
This major new facility will accomodate an enriched range of public programs, receptions, special events, private and community services, and presentations including symposia and workshops. The center will serve the Chapel's growing audiences, allow for more programming flexibility and scope, and provide space for new partnerships and expanded community outreach.
New offices, conference and meeting rooms, library and archives space, will support operations and research.
Recognizing that the grounds are an extension of the Chapel experience, the reconfigured campus will feature improved access and unobstructed views of the Chapel and Barnett Newman's Broken Obelisk, emphasizing the unity of the buildings and grounds. Open landscapes and new green spaces for reflection, including the creation of a new meditation garden, will foster a sense of sanctuary and enhance the connection to the neighborhood.
A renovated bungalow will host Chapel speakers and special guests, as well as scholars-in-residence.
Growing the Chapel's endowment will provide ongoing funding for the maintenance of new and restored properties and for expanded programming and operations.
The Rothko Chapel's $30 million capital project pays tribute to the first 50 years of it's artistic and spiritual legacy, while looking to serve new generations of visitors to the Chapel, it's campus and programs.
Principal Architect: Architecture Research Office
Lighting Designer: George Sexton Associates
Landscape Architect: Nelson Byrd Woltz
Project Manager: The Projects Group
Construction Manager: Linbeck Group
Removing art from Rothko Chapel is a moving experience - Houston Chronicle
The Push to Preserve a Rothko Masterpiece - The Wall Street Journal
Rothko Chapel to Be Seen in New Light - The New York Times
Rothko Chapel Closes In March For Major Renovations - Houston Public Media
Rothko Chapel to close for most of 2019 - Houston Business Journal