Architects Named for Rothko Chapel Renovations

The non-denominational chapel must maintain its spiritual ambience.

The Rothko Chapel is a non-denominational chapel in Houston, Texas. Courtesy of the Rothko Chapel.
The Rothko Chapel is a non-denominational chapel in Houston, Texas. Courtesy of the Rothko Chapel.

The Rothko Chapel in Houston needs renovations, and the Architecture Research Office (ARO) in New York has been selected for the job, Artforum reports. The chapel requires infrastructural maintenance, and the firm will help to develop a new master plan for the campus.

Commissioned by collectors John and Dominique de Menil in 1971, the Rothko Chapel is a non-denominational chapel that attracts 90,000 visitors a year, from spiritual pilgrims, to civil rights activists, and world leaders. It hosts a variety of events on-site, like “twilight meditation,” poetry readings, artist talks, concerts, tai chi, and yoga classes, as well as maintaining a library of holy texts.

Giving the chapel its name are 14 contemplative color-field murals by Mark Rothko lining the interior. On the grounds outside lies a reflecting pool and a sculpture by Barnett Newman, Broken Obelisk, which is dedicated to Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, and is prone to rust.

The complex was originally built by architects Philip Johnson, Howard Barnstone, and Eugene Aubry. Since January 2016, a plan has been underway to renovate the interior lighting and acoustics, and to build an administrative building. This work will be undertaken by ARO, in conjunction with lighting designers George Sexton Associates, and with conservators from the Menil Collection. The renovation of Broken Obelisk has already begun.

ARO have recently worked on a range of related projects, such as the renovation of 101 Spring Street in New York, the former home and studio of Donald Judd; or Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, an LGBTQ synagogue in New York City.


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