Emergence - CODAworx

Client: College of Missoula

Location: Missoula, MT, United States

Completion date: 2017

Project Team

Designer, fabricator

Erik Ole Nelson

Media Station Design Works, Inc.

Lead Architect

Brett Potter


Emergence is a large scale abstract tree sculpture for the College of Missoula Building in Missoula, Montana. This iconic tree stands 32 feet tall and is the tallest sculpture in Missoula. This piece was commissioned through the Montana Arts Counsel and the City of Missoula’s Percent for Art Program. The tree top is made from Core-Ten steel and the truck is a two stage pipe which starts at 16 inches in diameter then sleeves into a 12 inch pipe and finally the tree top at 8″ thick. The tree top is made up of 6, 6 foot by 12 foot sheets of 1/8 inch plate, plasma cut and welded to an internal angle iron frame. All the interior and exterior contour shapes are formed 20 gauge Core-Ten and are fully welded in place. After all the shapes have been welded, the entire tree top was ground down to resemble a solid 8″ block of steel, then sandblasted and finally rusted to achieve its final patina.


The main goal of the project was to create a large iconic sculpture that would be at a scale appropriate to the building, highlighting the vertical "tree like" supports in the front of the building's entrance. The theme of the abstract tree was chosen as a symbol of the growth of the students and the expansion they undergo while attending higher education.


Emergence was an ongoing collaboration between the architects, the College of Missoula and the board members who served on the panel for this project. Once the theme of the tree had be established, a local engineering firm was brought in to help determine the wind load and design the appropriate sized concrete base, which included over 20 yards of concrete. The tree faces towards the mouth of the canyon and can be seen from the highway entering the city from the east.