The Rothko Chapel in Houston will undergo a yearlong restoration.
Photo: The Rothko Chapel

Yearlong Restoration of the Rothko Chapel Has Begun

The historic Houston chapel founded by Mark Rothko in 1971 will be closed for renovations for the rest of 2019

A yearlong construction project that will include the restoration of the historic Rothko Chapel has begun in Houston.

This represents the first step in the Opening Spaces master plan for the Rothko Chapel, which is one of the world’s most celebrated sacred spaces. Created in 1971, the nondenominational space is an independent nonprofit organization that promotes the intersection of spirituality and art.

The skylight, lighting design, and entryway of the chapel will be reconfigured during the renovation. Photo: © Architecture Research Office

The larger, multiyear project will, according to a press release, “enhance the visitor experience in the chapel and on its grounds, while developing a campus that offers visitors new experiences, programs, and expanded education offerings in harmony with the original vision of Mark Rothko and John and Dominique de Menil,” the chapel’s founders.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the chapel is defined by its 14 monumental Mark Rothko canvases that invite spiritual contemplation and engagement regardless of faith or spiritual or religious background.

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“This project is long overdue. Correct lighting and ambiance are important for any art installation, but for the spiritual experience envisioned by the De Menils and created in the Rothko Chapel by my father, it is critical,” Christopher Rothko, chairman of Opening Spaces and son of the artist, said in a statement. “We will also greatly enhance our campus, creating more outdoor spaces for reflection and building new facilities that will allow us to carry out our important work on behalf of human rights and interfaith dialogue with renewed dedication and scope.”

A new welcome pavilion will be constructed on the grounds. Photo: © Architecture Research Office

The Opening Spaces plan has been designed by New York City Architecture Research Office, which is overseeing both the restoration—along with lighting design firm George Sexton Associates—and the expansion of the campus.

Additional construction will begin in 2020 and is set to include the development of an administration and archives building, a relocated and renovated guesthouse, a meditation garden, a program center with outdoor spaces, and enhanced landscaping. The goal is to complete the Opening Spaces site development project by 2021, in time for the 50th anniversary of the Rothko Chapel.

The chapel will be closed from March 4 through the end of 2019.

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