World-renowned architect Billie Tsien will visit McClung Museum at 5:30 tonight to discuss her style of architecture and the work of her award-winning firm, Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects.
The event is sponsored by General Shale Brick and is part of the College of Architecture and Design's Church Lecture Series.
Tsien, an Asian-American woman, is widely regarded as a pioneer in the field of architecture and is known for her modernist style of simple lines and clean considerations of space. She and Tod Williams, her husband, like to work on public spaces, places that people interact with every day.
Amanda Gann, master's in architecture candidate, served as the graduate member of the lecture series committee last semester and assisted with planning Tsien's visit to Knoxville. Since she was first introduced to the firm's work five years ago, Gann has professed her desire for Tsien to speak at UT.
"Billie Tsien is one of the most highly regarded architects in the profession," Gann said. "Her firm has been recognized nationally and internationally, and she is also a masterful speaker.
"She crafts her words as she would a building, with precision and poetry within each strand or sequence."
Gann spent time in Philadelphia last summer and had the opportunity to see one of Tsien's firm's works, the Barnes Foundation, being built. Tsien received the 2013 AIA Honor Award for Architecture for this 93,000-square-foot museum.
"Each day I would sit on the low wall by the reflecting pond and enjoy a quiet lunch in the warm sun as I watched the work of art take shape," Gann said. "The spaces they create are breathtaking. It was an incredible experience."
Tsien will be the first female speaker in the current series. As a minority in the field of architecture, she brings a perspective that, for Kiki Roeder, director of communication in the College of Architecture and Design, is unique.
“It’s uncommon to see such a successful woman in this field,” Roeder said. “But she is a pioneer and is passionate about what she does.”
Roeder also emphasized the importance of Tsien’s work in that it operates in the public sphere and has far-reaching effects.
“She works with what is all around us,” Roeder said. “We don’t stop to think about an architect’s choice of design or materials or their decisions on how it is built. It’s all around us. Architecture is a part of our everyday life.”
Although mostly architecture majors attend this lecture series, students in various disciplines can benefit from seeing such an important perspective in contemporary architecture. Geneva Hill, a marketing design assistant in the Art and Architecture office of communications, regretted the opportunities to see influential speakers she missed out on as an undergraduate and highlighted the educational experience that Tsien’s lecture will bring to non-architecture students.
“One of the great things about Tsien's design and process is the manner in which she addresses all aspects,” Hill said. “Even if you have no background in design, the lessons about how she views human experience in space are applicable to all fields.
“We can all learn about the human mind and about ourselves from it. We spend most of our time in a built environment, whether we realize it or not.”