A Center for Majestic Experiences Rises in the Middle of Montana

Ensamble Studio (Antón García-Abril and Débora Mesa), InvertedPortal, 2015. Image courtesy of Tippet Rise/Iwan Baan.Photo by Iwan Baan.

A new art center in Montana, Tippet Rise, is pushing the recent resurgence of interest in land art forward. While sculpture parks have been around for some time, Tippet Rise is not merely an hour outside of New York City, or stashed in a less-frequented neighborhood of Los Angeles. Instead, it is two hours from Bozeman, Montana, located on a working sheep ranch.

The Tiara at Tippet Rise Art Center, Design by Alban Bassuet and Willem Boning, with Arup Engineers. Lead Architect: Gunnstock Timber Frames. Image courtesy of Tippet Rise. Photo by Willem Boning.

Peter and Cathy Halstead founded the Center, which just opened in June of this year. They didn't just throw a dart at a map of the continent either, instead choosing the site very deliberately. Director Alban Bassuet described their thought process: "They fell in love with the canyons on the property (7 of them), lush prairies, large mountain ranges surrounding the property, the untouched and pristine natural environment, and its wildlife. Their dream has been to create a place that would be a pilgrimage or journey for people to experience art and nature, and I believe we have achieved this."

Domo, designed by Ensamble Studio(Antón García-Abril and Débora Mesa), installed at Tippet Rise Art Center. Photo by Andre Costantini. Courtesy of Tippet Rise Art Center.

The mission of the Center is very experience focused, very much about the individual and their path across the landscape. The Center—which consists of two music performance spaces, as well as a number of site-specific sculptures by a variety of artists—chose the locations of the particular installations very deliberately, designing an experience in which visitors could roam the landscape, discovering the work in concert with its surroundings, as well as observing music performances within the line of sight of these awesome vistas. Says Bassuet: "Our goal at Tippet Rise is to erase the traditional boundary between art or architecture and nature. We are trying to convey a sense of discovery and personal connection with the artwork, the facilities, the music and performers, and how nature and human creativity enhance and magnify each other."

While all the sculpture and architecture is visually impressive, blending high design with natural materials, some of the most jaw dropping constructions are the enormous casted concrete installations of Ensamble Studio, three of which are on site.

This notion of "experiencing" the landscape spoke to Ensamble Studio as well. Débora Masa, one of the two principals at Ensamble along with Antón García-Abril, described the process of coming up with their installation plan: "There was no preconception and we were given great freedom to design. With [Tippet Rise founders Cathy and Peter Halstead], we developed a masterplan and decided that instead of concentration all functions in one spot, in was worth strategically spreading the spaces of the art center all over the land, to help navigate and experience its different moments."

Ensamble Studio (Antón García-Abril and Débora Mesa), InvertedPortal (right) and Beartooth Portal (left), 2015. Image courtesy of Tippet Rise/Iwan Baan.Photo by Iwan Baan.

The Studio don't describe their work as land art, but do see it as transcending categorical descriptions of sculpture, architecture, or art, overlapping those notions, much as their gigantic concrete shells come together precipitously over the landscape. "They have strong architectural properties: they create space, they provide shelter and shade, they change the thermal and acoustical properties of the surrounding context and thus they enable new activities and programs to take place. But also, they can live empty without looking like empty buildings, they do not require maintenance, they support extreme weather and wildlife, they will change over time as nature takes over."

Click here to learn more about the Tippet Rise Art Center.

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