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Rothko Chapel

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1971, Howard Barnstone and Eugene Aubry. 1409 Sul Ross Ave.
  • (Photograph by Gerald Moorhead )
  • (Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress)

In 1964 Dominique and John de Menil commissioned abstract-expressionist artist Mark Rothko to prepare a set of paintings for a chapel for the University of St. Thomas. Philip Johnson designed the chapel building to sit at the south end of the university's academic mall. A disagreement between Rothko and Johnson over how tall the chapel's skylight should be led Johnson to withdraw from the project. After the University of St. Thomas expressed misgivings about its ability to maintain the chapel as an art museum, it too withdrew. Dominique and John de Menil had Barnstone and Aubry, Johnson's associate architects, adapt his design for a new site three blocks west of the university campus. The Rothko Chapel is an ecumenical center where events focusing on religious understanding, peace, justice, social responsibility, art, and music occur, surrounded by Rothko's abstract paintings. In front of the chapel, on axis with the entrance, is Barnett Newman's Broken Obelisk (1967), which the Menils installed as a memorial to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Writing Credits

Gerald Moorhead et al.


What's Nearby


Gerald Moorhead et al., "Rothko Chapel", [Houston, Texas], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Texas

Buildings of Texas: Central, South, and Gulf Coast, Gerald Moorhead and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2013, 339-339.

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