Tippet Rise Art Center


General Design

Fishtail, MT, USA | OEHME, VAN SWEDEN | OvS | Client: Tippet Rise Art Center

They never cluttered it. They controlled the viewshed, so every time you encounter an object, there is only one, and that one relates very well to what you’re looking at.

- 2018 Awards Jury


Photography Credit

  • OvS
  • Erik Petersen
  • Andre Constantini

Additional Project Credits

  • Design Team - Tippet Rise
  • Architect, Interior Design, Timber Frame Design & Build - Gunnstock Timber Frames
  • Landscape Architect - Oehme, van Sweden
  • Civil Engineer - DOWL
  • Structural Engineer - Hicks Engineering
  • Structural Engineer for PV Canopy and Energy Building - BCE
  • Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing Engineer - MKK
  • Timber Frame Engineer - Fire Tower Engineered Timber
  • Architect for Energy Building and PV Canopy - CTA Architects Engineers
  • Entry Point Architect - High Plains Architects
  • Acoustic Engineering, Lighting, Consulting - ARUP
  • LEED Consultants - High Plains Architects
  • Irrigation Consultant Artists - Landtech Design
  • Ranch Fence Installation - Ben Wynthein, Tippet Rise Ranch Manager


  • Sculptor - Patrick Dougherty
  • Sculptor - Ensamble Studio
  • Sculptor - Stephen Talasnik
  • Sculptor - Mark di Suvero
  • Sculptor - Alexander Calder


Tippet Rise Art Center (Tippet Rise) is one of the most ambitious international sculptural parks and music venues ever conceived. Located on 10,260 acres of rugged ranch land, the site is just outside of Fishtail, Montana, a small town in the southern part of the state. In the shadow of the Beartooth Mountains, this vast landscape consists of gently rolling hills, water-carved canyons, high meadows, mixed grassland, and short-grass prairie under an endless sky.

From the inception of the project, the client's strong commitment to the arts, land stewardship, resource conservation, and natural beauty drove the design. The landscape architect, selected by the client, understood the nuanced rugged wilderness and was dedicated to working 'with the land rather than against it'. With a multidisciplinary team of architects, acoustic, civil, and structural engineers and others, the landscape architect helped shape the terrain into a place for visitors to inhabit, while maintaining the sense of wildness and wonder that makes Tippet Rise unique.


Grassland Ecotone

The site is comprised primarily of Foothill Grassland, an ecotone that rises from 4500 to 6800 feet from the plains and plateau biomes in the north toward the mixed conifer forested slopes of the Beartooth Mountains in the south. The landscape is dry, (average rainfall is less than 16 inches per year), scarred by ancient fires, wind-swept, and marked by extreme temperature fluctuations.

Yet, this harsh and dynamic landscape is home to a diverse array of grassland fauna and flora, including mule deer, elk, coyotes, the occasional bear and migrating Sandhill Cranes as well as a fragile network of grasses, forbs, and sagebrush. Like much of Montana, the property is also a working ranch with herds of cattle and flocks of sheep grazing the land.

Remnants of earlier settlers' lives are etched on the landscape. They made their homes in the property's narrow valleys, where water was available year-round and timber plentiful enough to be used for dwellings. In recent decades, the property owners, Ranch Manager, and seasonal shepherds have been the sole human inhabitants of this land.


Tippet Rise was founded with a vision of creating a place where music, art, and nature are experienced simultaneously; where art is freed from the confines of galleries, music is performed without spectacle, and the threads that weave them together are the surrounding natural elements. Each component works in harmony to provide visitors with an unfettered appreciation of art and music and the wonders of the rugged wilderness.

Given its enormous size and 'Big Sky', the site offers no relatable sense of scale. The colossal setting injects an unmatched level of drama, yet thoroughly devours any human interventions of structure, art, or topography. The primary challenge was how to make this site accessible, visually legible, and sustainable without diminishing its remote and untamed beauty.

Crafting this multi-faceted vision required a sensitive application of ecological principles. The landscape architect was tasked with developing solutions for a series of challenges during the planning process. First, select specific locations on which to strategically place central programmatic components. Second, develop an accessible means of pedestrian and vehicular access. Finally, implement sustainable methods of water conservation and energy generation and re-establish the grassland and prairie ecology, all while maintaining the site's original sublime beauty.

Immersion and Process

Fully comprehending a project of this magnitude required immersion: walking, driving, and biking the site simply to absorb the scale. This, along with benchmarking studies of similar sculpture and art parks, helped crystalize design objectives and program components. The landscape architect referenced similar sculpture parks worldwide to develop a series of sustainable, curatorial, and programmatic recommendations. Original watercolors, pencil drawings, and detailed schematics gave definition to Tippet Rise's entry sequence, circulatory systems, and natural resource harvesting, and informed the beginning of a Landscape Master Plan.

An exhaustive site analysis of existing topography revealed far greater variations in grade than visually perceptible within the vast scale. These natural landforms served as a means to choreograph the visitor experience and to minimize disturbance. These studies helped to craft program and architectural site elements.

Tippet Rise's sculpture collection is spread throughout the property's 10,260-acres. The collection includes works by Mark di Suvero, Ensamble Studio, and Stephen Talasnik. Each of these large scale pieces (the tallest reaches 60 feet high, the longest is 98 feet) were placed by the individual artist. The distance between pieces is measurable in miles. The landscape architect worked with the team to devise a system of pedestrian and vehicular circulation that facilitates visitor access to each of the sculptures – whether on foot or authorized vehicle.

Ultimately the ten-acre Cottonwood Site, nestled along a riparian landscape with a native Cottonwood windbreak, was selected to serve as the heart of the project and gateway to the sculpture collection. The Cottonwood Site is host to five major programmatic components: the Olivier Music Barn (a visitor's center and a 150-seat performance venue), Will's Shed (a dining hall and event space serving guests with locally harvested food), residences for visiting artists, the Tiara (an acoustic shell for outdoor music performance), and Daydreams (a sculpture installation by Patrick Dougherty).

The landscape architect worked closely with the architect to site the architectural components, maximizing views and creating a sculptural relationship between built and natural context. In keeping with the client's request to work with the land, the site elements were strategically placed to be revealed and concealed within their natural surroundings as visitors move throughout the site.

Site Unseen

Tippet Rise is mostly off the grid both by design and by necessity, given the site's remote location. The property's utility infrastructure includes a field of geothermal wells that provide heating and cooling to buildings, and powers the extensive electrical needs of a world class concert hall as well as dining facility and residences. Nearby, an 8,000 square foot array of photovoltaic panels, designed in collaboration with the architect, powers the fleet of carbon- neutral electric vehicles.

With minimal annual precipitation, a sensitive solution for water management and harvesting was imperative. A 100,000-gallon rain storage system sits below the Olivier Music Barn's accessible parking surface to capture, store, and redistribute stormwater run-off and snowmelt. The water, in turn, is used for irrigation, toilet flushing, and fire suppression of the grassland near buildings.

Tippet Rise's 'Energy Building' houses the site utility systems and maintenance facilities. While critical to the daily functions, the building is utilitarian. Taking cues from the undulating topography the landscape architect carefully sculpted the land to ensconce the building within the landform and reestablished the short grass prairie on top. Most visitors pass this building without ever knowing it is there.

The landscape architect developed a site renewal process to re-establish the prairie and grassland disturbed by construction. While some locations consisted of shallow rock out-crops, other areas on the site had up to 12 inches of topsoil. The soil was stripped and stockpiled for later use. Subsoiling reduced construction compaction to 24 inches and a system similar to screeding to remove the larger rocks was employed. The planting strategy accommodates sustainable grazing practices and human habitation with high-performance grasses for grazing and a mix of flowering forbs selected to bloom during the summer concert season.

The palette includes Bouteloua gracilis, Festuca idahoensis, and Koeleria. In early spring, when other pastures are filled with Death Camas (Zigadenus venenosus), the Cottonwood Site is grazed by ewes and lambs. New plantings of Cottonwoods and Aspen among the existing trees along the creekside provide shelter and shade for visitors and strengthen wildlife corridors.


Tippet Rise opened in 2016 to international media recognition and a sold out schedule of concerts. Visitation surpassed initial estimates. Today, Tippet Rise is host to nine large-scale sculptures, three intimate performance venues, and artist accommodations. In addition to its programmatic and operational needs, the site remains a working cattle and sheep ranch. Guests frequently encounter livestock grazing alongside the sculpture collection.

The culmination of visionary clients and a dedicated multidisciplinary team, Tippet Rise serves as a testimony to the coexistence of art, music and sustainable land stewardship. Carefully crafted interventions are frequently imperceptible. Site elements, paths, and trails feel as though they were always there – 'natural' - yet capitalize on the site's terrain, vistas, and vantage points. While most visitors will never know what lies below the Olivier Music Barn or take note of the Energy Building or restored prairie, Tippet Rise was constructed with considered and thoughtful planning that intertwines built form with landscape, design, and nature.


Product Sources: FENCE/GATES

  • Infinite Machine; Metal Fence Fabricator
  • Sowards Fencing; Ranch Fence Fabrication and Installation
  • Ben Wynthein, Ranch Manager

Product Sources: IRRIGATION

  • Watertronics
  • Green Design; Landscape Contractor and Irrigation Installation

Product Sources: LUMBER/DECKING

  • Gunnstock Timber Frames


  • Invisible Structures; Gravelpave and Rainstore Manufacturers

Product Sources: OTHER

  • Four Seasons Nursery; Tree Nursery
  • Erik Stout; Signage Fabrication
  • Sundance Solar; PV Consultant
  • Select Stone; Stone Supplier