Rothko Chapel Breaks Ground on Expanded North Campus

by Jessica Fuentes April 20, 2024

The Rothko Chapel in Houston has broken ground on Phase 2 of its long-term campus development project, which is expected to be completed in 2026.

An aerial view rendering of designs for The Rothko Chapel.

Rendering of Rothko Chapel Phase 2, aerial view

The Chapel was founded in 1971 by artist Mark Rothko with support from philanthropists and art collectors John and Dominique de Menil. The space houses 14 mural-sized paintings on canvas by Mr. Rothko, and the campus features a reflecting pool with a work by Barnett Newman, which is dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 2016, a multi-year restoration and expansion plan was initiated to address increased interest and visitation to the space, as well as a desire to expand public programming and opportunities for community engagement. The $42-million project includes the restoration of the Chapel, the development of new indoor and outdoor spaces for visitors, and the construction of new buildings. 

In a press release, David Leslie, the Chapel’s Executive Director, explained, “The Chapel has never had the room that we need to fulfill our dual mission. The Opening Spaces project is not only about creating spaces that enable us to welcome more visitors, but also facilitating more enriching experiences of the art, deeper contemplation, and the social justice-focused community engagement embedded in our founders’ vision, which brings people together in dialogue and reflection across the many boundaries that separate us.”

The first phase of the project began in 2019 and was completed in 2021. It addressed the restoration of the Chapel building through the installation of a new skylight, updated lighting and A/V systems, structural reinforcement, and changes to the entryway and foyer. Beyond the Chapel, other landscape and infrastructure improvements were made and the Suzanne Deal Booth Welcome House, a visitor information center, was constructed. 

A rendering of the exterior of the Rothko Chapel.

Rendering of Rothko Chapel Phase 2, exterior view

Phase 2 will be rolled out in subsequent stages. Phase 2a will see the construction of a 6,600-square-foot Administration and Archives Building and the Kathleen and Chuck Mullenweg Meditation Garden. Phase 2b includes a 3,800-square-foot Program Center, housing for guest speakers and fellows, and a tree-shaded plaza. 

A rendering of the design of the interior of an educational space at the Rothko Chapel.

Rendering of Rothko Chapel Phase 2, Program Center

Christopher Rothko, who is on the Chapel’s Board of Directors and is the Co-Chairman of the Opening Spaces project said, “On the heels of our recent 50th anniversary, the work also gives us a welcome opportunity to lift up and celebrate those who have contributed to the design, building, and stewardship of the Rothko Chapel, including the de Menils, Philip Johnson, Howard Barnstone, Gene Aubrey, Barnett Newman, and so many others. All of them shared a vision that brought together modern art and sacred space to promote human unity, solidarity, and justice. This vision is still as relevant today as it was 50 years ago, and I believe it will remain so for generations to come.”

The campus plan was designed by the New York City-based Architecture Research Office; landscape improvements are being spearheaded by Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects; and the Linbeck Group is overseeing the construction. The complete project is working toward a LEED v4.0 certification, with the Administration and Archives Building targeting LEED Silver and the Program Center targeting LEED Gold. 

Learn more about the Opening Space project via the Chapel’s website.

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Mary Jane Victor April 23, 2024 - 13:57

The Rothko Chapel was founded by John and Dominique de Menil. Mark Rothko was the artist chosen by the de Menils. Rothko died several years before the Rothko Chapel opened in 1971.


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