In a New Light: 50 years of the Rothko Chapel

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July 15, 2021
5:00 PM
Rothko Chapel
3900 Yupon St
Houston, TX 77006

Brought to you by the ArCH Exhibitions and Programs

Join ArCH and architectural historian Stephen Fox for a conversation on the history of the Rothko Chapel and how its recent rehabilitation addressed some shortcomings of the original design. Attendees will be able to visit inside the chapel following the conversation.

Commissioned by John and Dominique de Menil in 1964 for the site-specific paintings of Mark Rothko, the original plan for the chapel proposed a large light cone in an effort to mitigate the intense Houston sun. Rothko and original architect Philip Johnson clashed over their differing ideas for the building, and the designs subsequently went through a number of revisions by other architects. Rothko did not live to see the chapel’s completion in 1971, but architects Howard Barnstone and his partner Eugene Aubry finished the design in accordance with the artist's wishes, resulting in a space that often felt shadowy and dark, making it difficult to appreciate the large contemplative paintings.

Last year the Rothko Chapel completed a major restoration project to correct the problematic elements, fundamentally changing the way the art and space are perceived. The project was spearheaded by Architecture Research Office (ARO), New York, with lighting experts George Sexton Associates.

Stephen Fox is a Houston-based architectural historian and a contributor to the book Rothko Chapel: An Oasis for Reflection (Rizzoli Electa, 2021).


Image courtesy of the Rothko Chapel and Paul Hester