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Tippet Rise Art Center unveils a secluded wooden pavilion, designed by Burkinabe architect Francis Kere, where Mother Earth's untouched majesty reigns supreme.

"Standing on the high meadow, looking out at the mountains under a vast sky, people can face nature at its widest scale," says Francis Kere. He speaks about Tippet Rise Art Center, a 12,000-acre sculpture park dedicated to the intersection of visual art, music, and the vast untouched landscape of rural Montana. It's also where the Burkinabe architect, famed for his socially driven, sustainable design approach that draws on the structures of West Africa, has inaugurated his latest project. The pavilion, called Xylem, is the first new site-specific commission at Tippet Rise since opening in 2016.

Nearly every component of Xylem embodies the splendor of its surroundings. Situated within a grove of aspen and Cottonwood trees, the 2,100-square-foot pavilion employs locally and sustainably sourced ponderosa and lodgepole pine, the same material that forms the curvilinear seating elements inside. Sourcing the wood was a rescue mission, of sorts: the trees were standing corpses, felled as part of a natural pruning process in response to parasitic mountain beetles. Its name is even botanical in nature. (Xylems are round layers within logs that circulate nutrients within trees.)

Xylem embodies the sort of responsible construction that defines Kere as both architect and humanitarian. Its design typologies are a continuation of the sustainable and climatically thoughtful schools he has built across West Africa, where he hails from the village of Gando in Burkina Faso. He's currently wrapping up construction on the Naaba Belem Goumma Secondary School, named after his father, which will address the village's long-standing need for secondary educational resources. The Tippet Rise Fund of the Sidney E. Frank Foundation is lending a hand by financially supporting construction of the school, which will accommodate 1,000 students when it opens in 2020.

Serving as Xylem's chief inspiration are the togunas of Mali's Dogon culture--sacred shelters with wooden pillars, carved with ornaments representing the ancestors. Traces of togunas manifest in Xylem's canopy of vertical logs, which filters fleeting wisps of light inside. When viewed from above, the rooftop's log arrangements, slotted between a hexagonal weathering steel structure, evoke gently undulating fields of flowers. It's another nod to the pavilion's intended use as "a quiet place to contemplate nature," says Halstead. And once Tippet Rise's fourth concert season kicks into high gear, Xylem will also play host to poetry readings and musical performances.

Xylem joins a wealth of blue-chip sculptures sprinkled throughout Tippet Rise's vast rolling hills, which include Ensamble Studio's monumental rock-like formations and two sculptures each by Alexander Calder and Mark di Suvero. Situated miles apart from one another, each sculpture is mammoth in size yet gracefully recedes within the majesty of Big Sky Country. With the addition of Xylem, which brings spiritual provenance from lands far and wide, Kere's statement holds true: nature's widest scale has come into full force.


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Title Annotation:Heaven on Earth
Author:Waddoups, Ryan
Date:Sep 22, 2019
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