The Eye

These Immense Concrete Sculptures Near Yellowstone Look Like They’ve Always Been There

The 26-foot-tall Inverted Portal from Ensamble Studio at the newly opened Tippet Rise Art Center in Fishtail, Montana.

Iwan Baan

With fair weather comes public art projects, and this summer we’ve seen a freestanding waterfall appear in the gardens of Versailles; Seven Magic Mountains rise in the Las Vegas desert; and now an otherworldly series of concrete sculptures by Madrid- and Boston-based Ensamble Studio that were cast from the surrounding landscape at the Tippet Rise Art Center in Fishtail, Montana, a dreamy new indoor/outdoor venue celebrating art, music, and architecture.*

Founded by Cathy and Peter Halstead, the new art center opened June 17 on an 11,500-acre working sheep and cattle ranch on the northern edge of Yellowstone National Park. Débora Mesa and Antón García-­Abril of Ensamble Studio went “back to primary elements to configure site­-specific architectures in harmony with nature,” they said in a project description, examining soil and rock formations to figure out how to “manipulate the structural, acoustical and thermal properties of these local materials at different scales” and studying geological transformation processes like sedimentation, erosion, weathering, crystallization, compaction, and metamorphism­ in order “to cultivate structures made of landscape, from landscape.”

Beartooth Portal is 25 feet tall; its two formations stand 25 feet apart on the ground and lean together at the top, like a pair of giant teenage rock formations on a romantic first date.

Iwan Baan

The site-specific outdoor works are striking because they mirror the landscape rather than offering your usual contemporary juxtaposition that highlights the differences between the art and the scenery.

The 98-foot-long, 6-foot-tall Domo.

Andre Costantini

“They resonate with the immensity, the roughness, the silence and the magic loneliness of the place, amplifying its values,” the designers said, describing their work as occupying “an ambiguous position between nature, architecture and art; they can be one and all, or a completely different category that only makes sense where it was born.”

Another view of Inverted Portal (right) and Beartooth Portal (left).

Iwan Baan

Watch the beautifully shot making-of video below for a virtual tour of the landscape and a glimpse of the arduous process of creating the highly engineered sculptures that look like they might have always been there:

*Correction, July 8, 2016: This post originally identified the sculptures’ title as “Structures of Landscape.” That title refers to Ensamble Studio’s presentation at the Venice Architecture Biennale, which featured work later located at Tippet Rise.