Tippet Rise Art Center — “Daydreams” Schoolhouse

The program requirements for this project, installed at the newly established, 11,500-acre Tippet Rise Art Center, were simple: replicate a late-1800s, one-room Montana schoolhouse to provide a relatively protected interior space for housing an original Patrick Dougherty sculpture made of saplings, dubbed “Daydreams.”

It was important the schoolhouse — and the overall installation — create authenticity. The most difficult task was determining the level of protection needed for the sculpture while creating a building appearing to have been beaten by a century of weather. Dougherty requested the team find a method of protecting the interior from water infiltration so as to maximize the potential for its longevity. Typically easy, when replicating a more than 100-year-old deteriorated schoolhouse, the task becomes more challenging.

One element deemed important to preserve was the look of a deteriorated roof allowing natural light to filter into the interior through gaps in the skip sheathing. This was achieved by sandwiching acrylic sheets between two layers of 1x planks in a seamless application invisible to the untrained eye. A secondary challenge was creating interior and exterior finishes closely matched to those of the nearby historic Stockade Schoolhouse.

The process included: (1) thoroughly documenting the existing school, noting layers of paint and elements of detailed deterioration, such as subtle discoloration from differential rates of water damage, ghosted “memories” of since-removed built-in shelving, and rows of rusted nails once holding shingles; (2) reviewing full-scale mock-ups with the client and contractor to determine the best “recipe” of finish techniques; and (3) a hands-on approach to construction administration, walking through subtle details and tweaks to the finished recipe.

In addition to netting an Honorable Mention from AIA Montana in 2016 (and printed in The Montana Architect), the “Daydreams” installation has been featured by these sites/publications: