Apr 18, 2024 - News

Rothko Chapel campus expansion breaks ground

A rendering of a building and people outside.

The North Campus' central plaza will tie together the new Welcome House, Administration and Archives Building, and Program Center, directly across from the chapel. Rendering: Courtesy of Architecture Research Office

The Rothko Chapel broke ground on Phase 2 of its $42 million Opening Spaces project yesterday.

Why it matters: The art and meditative chapel is expanding its footprint to create a "campus" that will align with its mission of community engagement and providing central, "spiritual, sacred spaces," the chapel's executive director, David Leslie, tells Axios.

Driving the news: Today, the bungalow owned by the Rothko Chapel near its welcome space will be moved to begin the construction of a new Administration and Archives Building.

  • Phase 2 will also include the construction of a program center for events and workshops, a guest house, and a meditation garden, all slated to finish by the end of 2026.

By the numbers: $27 million of the total $42 million needed for the project has been raised, largely from private donors, per Leslie.

Flashback: The Opening Spaces project and its capital campaign launched in 2016, in anticipation of the chapel's 50th anniversary.

  • The $16 million Phase 1 started in 2019 and wrapped up in 2021. It restored the chapel, created the welcome house and upgraded landscaping.
Photo of people posing as they dig into the ground.
The groundbreaking ceremony. Photo: Shafaq Patel/Axios

The big picture: The Rothko Chapel, renowned for its 14 monumental Mark Rothko paintings that invite spiritual reflection, will remain the centerpiece.

  • However, architects and chapel dignitaries said at the groundbreaking ceremony that the new facilities and redesigned grounds will transform how the nondenominational chapel hosts programs.
  • Currently, most of the spiritual and social justice events are held on the chapel grounds.
  • These changes aim to make the chapel more open and accessible, with the hope of highlighting this iconic block to more Houstonians, Leslie says.

What they're saying: "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," Leslie says.


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