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      Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects Receive the 2013 AIA Architecture Firm Award

      Firm noted for its Multicultural Modernism projects

      Contact: Matt Tinder

      For immediate release:
      Washington, D.C. – December 6, 2012 –
      The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Board of Directors voted today for Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects to receive the 2013 AIA Architecture Firm Award. The firm will be honored at the 2013 AIA National Convention in Denver. Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects is noted for exquisite care for detail with subtle, reverent architecture that’s both timeless in its abstracted, meditative forms and materially specific to context and place.

      The AIA Architecture Firm Award, given annually, is the highest honor the AIA bestows on an architecture firm and recognizes a practice that consistently has produced distinguished architecture for at least 10 years.

      The married team of architects, Tod Williams, FAIA, and Billie Tsien, AIA, have been working together since 1977 and first formed their New York City-based practice in 1986. They have used the intervening decades to design a celebrated portfolio of overwhelmingly public cultural and institutional buildings: university facilities, libraries, museums, etc. As such, their design language embodies the idealized traits of the body politic; contemplative, enlightened, humble, eloquent, granular and diverse in its individual details, but unified in purpose and intent. Despite the growing prestige of their commissions and their recent expansion into international projects, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects keep their studio relatively small and nimble, at less than 30 people.

      “Their work carries with it a spiritual value which transcends pragmatic solutions,” wrote Toshiko Mori, FAIA, in a recommendation letter. “Their projects respond to multiple and complex needs of clients, yet their solutions are simple and elegant. Their firm’s work brings forth the ideals of Modernism, yet is moderated with a contemporary sensibility and intelligence which makes their work rich, tactile, and useful.”

      Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects are renowned for their material integrity and sense of innovation. They treat materials honestly; concrete forms sculptural free standing stairs, and wood frames unpretentiously warm floor-to-ceiling glass walls. When they can’t find the proper material for a specific use, they invent their own. For example, the University of Pennsylvania’s bioengineering building, Skirkanich Hall, uses a hand-glazed ceramic brick on its front façade that creates an iridescent greenish sheen specially developed for the project, a reference to the ivy-covered brick seen across the 18th century campus.

      Noted projects include:

      Long Island House
      in Wainscott, N.Y., a Long Island Modernist triptych pavilion clad in warm cedar siding, balanced with cool New York bluestone. Mahogany floor-to-ceiling window frames and custom-designed cherrywood furniture make the house an inviting and convivial entry into the pantheon of Modernist glass-walled houses.

      The C.V. Starr East Asian Library
      at the University of California-Berkeley, a rare books repository that signals its cultural affiliation with carefully crafted, abstract screen systems.

      The David Rubenstein Atrium
      at Lincoln Center in New York City, which cobbles together 7,000 square feet of new public space for performances and Lincoln Center visitors out of the interstitial spaces between buildings. Newcomers and Lincoln Center regulars are treated to a 20-foot tall green wall and 16 skylight oculi, playfully scattered across the ceiling.

      The Barnes Foundation
      in Philadelphia, the museum that controversially transplanted Albert Barnes’ singular collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Early Modern art from his suburban quasi-private exhibition space to Center City Philadelphia. Williams and Tsien’s new museum replicates the scale, proportion, and configuration of the original Paul Cret-designed museum, while adding new spaces for education, painting conservation, and research.

      Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects is the 50th AIA Architecture Firm Award recipient. Previous recipients of the AIA Firm Award include, VJAA (2012), BNIM (2011), Pugh + Scarpa (2010), Kieran Timberlake (2008), Muphy/Jahn (2005), Polshek Partnership (1992), Venturi, Raunch, and Scott Brown (1985), I.M. Pei and Partners (1968), and SOM (1962).

      About The American Institute of Architects
      For over 150 years, members of the American Institute of Architects have worked with each other and their communities to create more valuable, healthy, secure, and sustainable buildings and cityscapes. Members adhere to a code of ethics and professional conduct to ensure the highest standards in professional practice. Embracing their responsibility to serve society, AIA members engage civic and government leaders and the public in helping find needed solutions to pressing issues facing our communities, institutions, nation and world. Visit


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