Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects has been selected as the 2013 AIA Architecture Firm. The firm 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.