Leading Architect Billie Tsien to Speak April 17

Billie Tsien and Tod Williams. Photo by Eli Burakian ’00/Dartmouth College

Architect Billie Tsien creates buildings that are literally down-to-earth, but the philosophy behind those structures is anything but earthbound.

“We see architecture as an act of profound optimism,” Tsien and her husband-partner Tod Williams have written. “Its foundation lies in believing that it is possible to make places on the earth that can give a sense of grace to life—and believing that that matters. It is what we have to give and it is what we leave behind.”

The acclaimed architect and teacher will speak at Mount Holyoke Thursday, April 17, at 7 pm in the Art Building’s Gamble Auditorium. Her talk is titled “A Building Is a Verb.” Tsien has said that she is less interested in buildings as objects (nouns) and increasingly interested in buildings as experiences (verbs).

A student leadership luncheon on the 17th with Tsien is open to MHC students, but preregistration is required.

As architects, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien focus on work for institutions—museums, schools, and nonprofits. They have designed such distinctive buildings as the American Folk Art Museum, the U.S. Mexico City Embassy compound, the Whitney Museum of Art Downtown, and Philadelphia’s Barnes Foundation. Among their many awards is the 2013 Architecture Firm Award from the American Institute of Architects.

In addition to practicing, teaching and lecturing broadly, Tsien serves on the advisory council for the Yale School of Architecture, and is a director of the Public Art Fund, the Architectural League of New York, and the American Academy in Rome. In 2007, Tsien was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

The event is part of a multiyear Leading Women in the Arts series launched by the Weissman Center for Leadership and the InterArts Council. This program reflects the center's support of public presentations by scholars, artists, writers, and practitioners that connect the academic work of the College with the public sphere.