Société de 032c: The Montana Plains with Architect FRANK BARKOW

Architect FRANK BARKOW reads 032c after a contemplative horse trek on the Montana plains. 

Surrounded by rolling hay fields that unfurl into grassy foothills, architect Frank Barkow’s ranch is a sprawling testament to the mindset of Big Sky Country. “In summer, it smells like cut hay and in winter, it smells like dry, cold snow and chimney fires,” he muses about his retreat in Montana. The grounds hold a large timber barn and a ranch house, which, in true American fashion, have been remodeled countless times since the nineteenth century, displaying traces of dozens of different architectural styles. Yet, as Barkow points out, it is the land that really defines this place.

The Montana-born and Berlin-based architect makes sure to refuel at his ranch near Bozeman a few times every year. His practice, Barkow Leibinger, which he founded with his partner Regine Leibinger in 1993, has erected towers, pavilions, and apartment buildings in super-cities across the globe, while also embarking on publishing endeavors like Spielraum (2014) – a 20-year retrospective of the firm’s projects.

However, Montana is where the heart is. On a trip back home, Barkow casually leans on the wood panelling of his red barn, which houses horses Gerrie, Darby, and Jake (the Appaloosa). “It’s a chore to try to get them to sit still, much less try to read a magazine from the saddle,” he says.

The vast territory of the fourth largest US state leaves more than just room for prairie fantasies on horseback. It carves out a wild vacuum for the libertarian spirit. “There is a deep distrust of national government intervention in the state going back to the failed Homesteading Act. Most Montanans I know refused to vote for Trump or Hillary, opting for the Libertarian Party,” Barkow explains, “This is cow, wheat, oil, and coal country. There are a million inhabitants in a place that is bigger than Germany.”

In outlaw country, any reality is allowed to take form – whether it be groups formed out of civil resistance, or utopias dressed in the fashion of days gone by. It is a place where ranchers, conservationists, and anarcho-capitalists alike go to unwind: “Survivalists, cults, Mormons, Hutterites, Native Americans, fundamentalists, the Unabomber, and the ultra-rich all find space in this vast country to carve out a home they can call their own. There is no urban reality here, only how you situate yourself in a harsh and beautiful landscape.” Barkow then adds an important note for all potential visitors: “The Second Amendment of the US Constitution rules supreme.”

After a trip to Richard Neutra’s 1950s log cabin out on Sourdough Road, Barkow recommends Ted’s Montana Grill, owned by media baron Ted Turner, for the best buffalo burger in Montana.

Ted’s Montana Grill 105 W. Main Street Bozeman, Montana 59715

Text EVA KELLEY

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