Team creates unique, aged schoolhouse look for Fishtail art exhibit

CTA partnered with Tippet Rise Art Center to design a modern, one-room schoolhouse with the appearance of having been built 100 years ago. The function of the schoolhouse, located in Fishtail, MT, was to inspire and house a sculpture by international artist Patrick Dougherty. We had an initial kickoff meeting with Dougherty and the owner’s rep to lay the groundwork for our portion of the project. He expressed a preference to be able to react to what we provided him rather than having a hands-on role in the design process. There was an old schoolhouse about 30 miles away; we studied it for a basis of design, then revised our program and design to fit the site. It required quite a bit of on-site coordination between CTA and JXM Design & Associates (the contractor) to create the right nuance in finishes so it felt authentic.

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One important design feature was to have the south roof appear to be degrading to the point that light would shine through the sheathing while maintaining some water shedding capabilities. We did this by running Plexiglass through channels at the top of each rafter, essentially creating large gutters to usher water out past the edge of the walls. The quality of light through the roof is pretty spectacular, changing throughout the day, and from season to season. Lines of light trace their way across the walls, floor, and twigs of the sculpture, adding a dynamic quality to an otherwise static installation. Selecting the layers of finishes on the interior and exterior was no small feat. The contractor (who, by the way is Max Anthon, an AIT at CTA Bozeman who has been a contractor in the northwest for 20+ years) approached the finishes like a scientist, testing the aesthetics of layered paint peeling off of wood before settling on a multi-step process to replicate the aging effect on the exterior and interior. The owners and artist could not believe the level of detail that was achieved throughout the course of this project, and were more very pleased with the result.

The project team:

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