Iwan Baan in Montana

One day in a helicopter hovering over London, a few days later in a car with his wife jessica Collins traveling to Tippet Rise, Montana.



On this day, as we drove along the dusty road between Billings and Bozeman, we couldn’t see much beyond the curtains of sage bush. Except the sky. The region of the atmosphere and outer space seen from the earth was out in Montana like she always is: Being big, and better than anywhere else you’ve ever been.

Describing Montana is difficult because, as John Steinbeck once wrote, “I’m in love with Montana. For other states I have admiration, respect, even some affection. But with Montana it is love. And it’s difficult to analyze love when you’re in it.”


This is the Cowboy Capital of the World – a place that is far removed from museums, galleries and concert halls. A place where elk, deer and antelope populations out number the humans, and the land is so close, and so enveloping, that it literally feels like part of the body.

It is also the landscape captured by renowned modernist painter and rancher, Isabelle Johnson, whose family homesteaded part of an 11,500 ranch set in the shadows of the Beartooth Mountains, just outside of Yellowstone National Park. The Johnson family lived there for most of the 20th century, and not much has changed since those days.


Cathy and Peter Halstead were in search of a site for Tippet Rise, which would become a place to transcend boundaries between music, land art, sculpture and architecture. And when they came across the “vast rolling hills, gentle canyons and alpine tundra surrounded by pools and meadows, this was the most amazing landscape we had ever found.”


We met Cathy a painter, and Peter a pianist, on a gusty day, atop one of the many hills that make up Tippet Rise. Their hair, wild and enthusiastic blew through the same wind that carried the sound of Stravinsky’s Patrushka across the rolling landscape. Playing the piece was Taiwanese pianist, Jenny Chen who took shelter under an acoustically perfect, prehistoric-looking pavilion created by the Spanish architects, Ensemble.

At Tippet Rise, music and art are one reality, just in separate forms. It’s a place where architects like Ensemble can “think with their hands” and sculptors and installation artists create site-specific compositions that erase the typical boundaries between nature, art and architecture.



Jessica Collins and Iwan Baan


This production was published in WOTH No1. This issue is still available in english via Bruil & van der StaaijOr get a subscription here!

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