New York City-based Architecture Research Office (ARO) has been selected to lead the renovation and master planning of the Rothko Chapel in Houston, the home of 14 monumental panels by artist Mark Rothko. The chapel's interior was designed to the artist's precise vision. ARO will seek to improve the Chapel’s interior lighting and its presentation of Rothko’s panels by renovating the skylight, the interior light baffle, and the electric lighting systems in collaboration with lighting designers from George Sexton Associates. According to a press release, the project will also include improvements to the HVAC system and acoustics, and the entry vestibule will be redone to better enhance the visitor experience, all while maintaining a close eye toward Rothko’s original intent for the space. The master planning portion will address the outdoor plaza and reflecting pool containing Barnett Newman’s sculpture Broken Obelisk, as well as several adjacent edifices. Given that the chapel’s neighboring institutions, the Menil Collection and the University of St. Thomas, are both undergoing extensive renovations, the plans for Rothko Chapel seek to elevate its visibility while maintaining its identity and function as a quiet sanctuary. ARO has a history of working with leading universities and cultural institutions and is the winner of the 2011 National Design Award for Architecture from the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum.
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An exhibition of architectural photographer Ezra Stoller’s work will open at the Yossi Milo Gallery tonight in New York and runs through February 12. A few of the photos are instantly recognizable, such as a photo of the Guggenheim lobby featuring women in pillbox hats standing in the foreground. But the gems of the show are those taken off the beaten path, like the roof of the Seagram’s Building or a parking garage in Miami. “We see it as a mini-retrospective,” said Milo. “We wanted to show more than the slam-dunk photos, to give it more depth.” The images show not only Stoller’s precise technical ability, but also reveal the self-effacing nature of architectural photography: that of an artist recording work of another artist. But the depth of Stoller’s appreciation for art and design makes it easy to forget that one is looking at a stand alone work of art. Not only is the genius of Mies, Wright and Saarinen observed, but the works of Picasso, Kandinsky, and Miro peer out from building interiors as well. The artworks act as a magnet, pulling the viewer further in. In a single shot of a Seagram interior one of Rothko’s “Red” paintings hangs next to the next to an Eames sofa which sits across from a Franz Kline. “These were such new ideas. Now people sit with an iPhone and think that’s modern,” Milo said gesturing to the photograph. The gallery owner noted that some photos that didn’t make it into the show revealed the photographer’s intense interest in the building process. “There are photos from the beginning of when the U.N. was being built. He kept going back and going back,” he said. The images show buildings shot at all times of day and in all kinds of weather, taken at night, in the rain, after the rain, or, as in one photo of Saarinen’s TWA terminal, as a lightning storm approaches. That particular silver print holds varying tones of white within the building interior, while simultaneously retaining all the grays and blacks of the approaching storm.