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illuminating the next 50 years - Opening Spaces is a transformative capital project focused on enriching the Rothko Chapel experience
Opening Spaces is a vital capital project focused on enriching the Rothko Chapel experience by preserving the Chapel as a unique sacred art site and spiritual place, 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 feasibility 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 resulting master plan re-envisions the Chapel's campus and facilities through the following elements:
• Restore the Chapel to the original intent of the founders and artist by improving the lighting and experience inside the Chapel.
• Address the increasing interest in and visitation to the Chapel by providing a more educational and interactive experience and making the campus more accessible to visitors.
• Further our community engagement and programming at the intersection of art, spirituality and human rights by adding a new programming center, library and archives and conference room.
Phase I of the project, which included the restoration and lighting transformation of the Rothko Chapel sanctuary, the construction of the new Suzanne Deal Booth Welcome House, comprehensive drainage and infrastructure enhancements and new plantings under the direction of Landscape Architects at Nelson Byrd Woltz including the Charleen Mullenweg Birch Grove were completed in 2021.
We are now in the process of Phase 2 of the project, which includes:
· The construction of two new buildings on the North Campus; The Program Center and Administration and Archives Building
· A new meditation garden
· Rehabilitation of a bungalow on the site to provide dedicated housing for Chapel speakers, research fellows and other visitors
The skylight, lighting design and entryway of the Chapel has been transformed allowing for a more profound and better illuminated interaction with both art and space. Generously underwritten by Lynn Wyatt, the lighting transformation of the Chapel sanctuary with the new engineered skylight and supplemental lighting array was designed by George Sexton Associates. Through support by Matt Mullenweg, the Chapel's entry vestibule has been returned to an open configuration providing a seamless transition between the entrance and sanctuary. Critical preservation initiatives and upgrades undertaken as part of the restoration 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 Suzanne Deal Booth Welcome House embodies 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 facility reinforces the spiritual and meditative aspects of the Chapel, heightening the visitor experience. The Suzanne Deal Booth Welcome House features didactic and historical displays, an expanded gift shop and bookstore, luggage lockers and restroom facilities and serves as a gathering point for groups and guided tours.
Recognizing that the grounds are an extension of the Chapel experience, the reconfigured campus features 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 construction of the Charleen Mullenweg Birch Grove, a series of birch rooms built to foster a sense of sanctuary and enhance the connection to the surrounding neighborhood.
First on the list of infrastructure enhancements was relocating the Chapel's mechanical and control systems from below-ground to a second-story energy facility with a backup chiller and generator to ensure environmental stability for the Chapel through weather emergencies. Additional landscape and drainage improvements also work to safeguard the campus against extreme weather events.
Seen here in the center, this major new facility will accommodate 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.
Seen here on the right, this new facility will include new offices, conference and meeting rooms, library and archives space, to support Chapel operations and research.
A renovated bungalow will host Chapel speakers and special guests, as well as scholars-in-residence.
Visitors will find this newly created space next to Menil Park a peaceful refuge for meditation, prayer or quiet reflection.
Growing the Chapel's endowment will provide ongoing funding for the maintenance of new and restored properties and for expanded programming and operations.
The Opening Spaces Campaign is made possible through the generous support of Rothko Chapel friends like you. Help us to illuminate the next 50 years and contribute to the Opening Spaces Campaign today:
Donors at the $25,000 level and above will be recognized on the Opening Spaces donor wall designed by Architecture Research Office, principal architects of the Opening Spaces project.
The Rothko Family
The Brown Foundation Inc.
Houston Endowment, Inc.
Suzanne Deal Booth
The Cullen Foundation
The Fondren Foundation
The Glimcher Family
Michael R. Piana
Texas Commission on the Arts
The Cullen Trust for the Performing Arts
The John R. Eckel, Jr. Foundation
The Elkins Foundation
The MD Anderson Foundation
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Donna and Marvin Schwartz
Dr. Nancy Crown and Dr. Samuel Weisman
Peggy and Richard Danziger
Cece and Mack Fowler
The Rosenblatt Charitable Trust
The Vivian L. Smith Foundation
Chinhui Juhn and Edward R. Allen III
Kristina Van Dyke Fort and Jeff Fort
Esther Friedman Family Foundation
Virginia and Lee Lahourcade
Judy and Scott Nyquist
The Muriel Pollia Foundation
Isabel and Ignacio Torras
As of November 1, 2023
The Rothko Chapel's $35 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.
Thank you for your interest in the Opening Spaces project. Please click here for ways to donate to the capital campaign. For inquiries or additional information on ways you can help, please contact Thuy M. Tran, Director of Advancement, at 713.660.1405.
Principal Architect: Architecture Research Office
Lighting Designer: George Sexton Associates
Landscape Architect: Nelson Byrd Woltz
Project Manager: The Projects Group
Construction Manager: Linbeck Group
Inside the Holy Restoration of Houston's Rothko Chapel - WSJ Magazine
Rothko Chapel Finally Comes To Light - Houston Public Media
Wind issues delay Rothko Chapel reopening - Houston Chronicle
Why you'll be seeing Houston's Rothko Chapel in a new light - Houston Chronicle
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