June 1, 2014

Billie Tsien:1990 Hall of Fame Inductee

Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, partners in their namesake firm since 1986, come to the fields of architecture and design from two very different backgrounds. Williams’ formation centers on architecture; Tsien approaches her work from a fine arts stance having earned a degree in the subject from Yale and then going on to UCLA to earn a Masters in Architecture. She participated as an artist in “Art on the Beach,” a series of collaborative installations at Battery Park City (Manhattan), and, with Williams, was the recipient of several grants from New York State Council of the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts-the grants used to fund collaborations with artists. Further involvement with the arts comes through participation on an advisory panel for the NEA and membership of the Board of Governors of New York Foundation of the Arts.

Williams and Tsien first collaborated on BEA headquarters in the Citicorp building; subsequent projects include the Spiegel pool house, the downtown branch of the Whitney Museum, and the Feinberg Hall at Princeton University, all recipients of the AIA Distinguished Architecture Award. Other works include Mount Jefferson College, a 500-student dormitory and dining facility at the University of Virginia, and the school of nursing at Yale. Their projects-be they a building, an interior, or the development of a museum exhibition-are marked by an ever-present exploration of form and materials. Asked to describe the Williams/Tsien approach, Tsien comments: “Ours is a rigor intersected with other ethics that can’t be analyzed. We’re not interested in becoming heroes or heroines, therefore we’re not developing a recognizable style. Our work is a continuous looking at questions. We’re not so interested in the definition of answers.”

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