Billie Tsien: Resistance

Billie Tsien: Resistance

Critical Visions, 2008 RAIA National Conference

A series of evocative, slightly abstract images marked the start of Billie Tsien’s keynote address at CV08. Described by Tsien as “objects of beauty and use” in the folk art tradition, these images set the tone for the address that touched on six Tod Williams/Billie Tsien (TWBTA) projects focussing on her particular approach to each architectural problem.

Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, as partners in work and love, have created a truly enviable architectural practice. Tsien spoke about their 16th floor Carnegie Hall apartment of over 30 years – apparently at the urging of Williams – is a compact, light-filled space, characterised by traditional art collected over the years. By revealing this personal space upfront, she set the tone for the projects that followed.

American Folk Art Museum (2001)
Part of New York’s famous Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) family, the American Folk Art Museum is a compact, vertical building, characterised by large stair that winds a path through the building. Tsien affectionately called it the “jewel in the belly button of MOMA”. As an infill building, the verticality of the form was generated in response to the context and site plan constraints, where the site is only 12 x 30 metres and accommodates a 2,800m2 program.

American Folk Art Museum street facade
The 53rd Street facade of cast white bronze panels (American Folk Art Museum, 2001)

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