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2018 MCHAP

Structures of Landscape @ Tippet Rise Art Center

Anton Garcia-Abril & Debora MEsa: Ensamble Studio

Fishtail, USA

April 2016


Débora Mesa Molina/ Ensamble Studio Antón García-Abril Ruiz / Ensamble Studio


Javier Cuesta / Ensamble Studio (Construction Engineer) Ricardo Sanz / Ensamble Studio (Project Collaborator)


Tippet Rise Art Center


Iwan Baan Erik Petersen


The creative process that helps to imagine architecture is not necessarily implemented by means of a plan, an idea sketched on paper that progressively takes definition, detail and materiality. Design is here achieved through action, through experimentation with matter, structure, form and space simultaneously. Using models, mock­ups, tests, ideas are developed, uncertainty creatively exploited, and the construction process rehearsed until the final performance can be played on site. Design happens as a moment of encounter and celebration, we trust our collective actions that blend intuition with acquired knowledge, we trust our hands that think while doing; and we trust that when the process is carefully choreographed, we can give up control of the result and allow other logics and agents to engage, interpret, complete the spaces architecture builds for them. With this manifesto in 2014 we started to design Structures of Landscape for Tippet Rise Art Center in Montana. The project becomes an act of reflection that learns from natural processes and abstracts them into processes of invention. We go back to primary elements to configure site­-specific architectures as visceral manifestations of nature. Working with earth, with rocks, and learning from their formation logic, different techniques and processes are developed to manipulate the structural, acoustical and thermal properties of these local materials at different scales; and geological transformation processes –sedimentation, erosion, weathering, crystallization, compaction, metamorphism­- reinterpreted to cultivate structures made of landscape, from landscape. Structures that stir existing matter and reinforce it, introducing new tension and meaning.


Located north of Yellowstone Park, Tippet Rise Art Center ­with an extension of 10,260 acres of grazing land­ is born as a destination where “art, music, land, sky, and poetry can weave together into an algorithm which is greater than the sum of its parts”, where the visitor experiences nature through art (or maybe art through nature), where local fauna and ranching activity can coexist with artistic and architectural interventions. Tippet Rise celebrates the concept that art, music, architecture, and nature are inextricably linked in the human experience, each making the others more powerful. Transforming matter into habitable space, Structures of Landscape give shelter to the center’s outdoor activities across its vast territory, unfolding a new constellation of programs among the plateaus, ridges, canyons and hills of sublime beauty that make the site. It is because of wilderness –of weather and life­ at Tippet Rise- that the project is conceived as raw architecture: robust, earthy and rough; while also expressive and acoustically precise. Between October 2015 and April 2016, three of these Structures were built: Beartooth Portal, Inverted Portal and Domo. These architectures, together with a series of art works by Alexander Calder, Mark Di Suvero, Stephen Talasnik and Patrick Doherty, opened Tippet Rise Art Center for the first time in June of 2016. Today, after almost two years in operation, our work continues to accommodate the organic growth of the program, progressively activating dormant stars of the proposed constellation. The project, as nature, is alive.


With its infinite extension of rolling hills against the backdrop of the Beartooth Mountains, Tippet Rise site, resembles a lunar landscape. How to incorporate in such a unique setting an architecture that incarnates its spirit? To start designing we tried to set aside our urban thinking, to prevent ubiquitous urbanization and develop new tools, methods and languages that would help us create following the rules of the land, reading constellations instead of grids and molding land instead of consuming it. Structures of Landscape insert themselves in nature without conflicting with ongoing processes and lives, maximizing the use of local resources for their construction and responding with their massiveness, richness of textures and essential forms to the challenges and opportunities of the remote site, extreme weather and elevated mission. Widely spread across the vast territory, these architectures use passive energy strategies, require no maintenance and do not suffer when empty. Equal parts shelter, concert space and earthworks, they seek to create memorable experiences for visitors -performers and audience members alike- and ingeniously become instruments themselves, channeling winds, reflecting sound and ultimately projecting it into the landscape: always welcoming interaction. Structures of Landscape build landscapes within landscapes and enable habitation without exploitation. They resonate with the immensity, roughness and solitude of the place amplifying its values, mediating between people and the environment, and situate our actions in an ambiguous position between nature, architecture and art, transcending unimaginative categorizations.

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