The Soul of a Building: In the Archives with Billie Tsien

Posted on Thu., Jan. 19, 2023

Architect Billie Tsien joins Erin Chase, assistant curator of architecture at The Huntington, for a behind-the-scenes visit to see some of the architectural materials in the library archives.

This video was produced as part of the Why It Matters program. Sponsored by the President’s Office, the Why It Matters series features distinguished guests in conversation with President Karen R. Lawrence about the enduring relevance of the humanities.

About the Guest

Billie Tsien along with her partner, Tod Williams, founded their New York-based practice Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects | Partners in 1986.  Their practice is committed to reflecting the values of non-profit, cultural and academic institutions toward an architecture of enduring vision.  Some of their notable projects include the Asia Society Hong Kong Center, The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, and the Lefrak Center in Prospect Park, Brooklyn.  This October, the firm completed a renovation of David Geffen Hall’s public spaces at Lincoln Center in New York City, and it is currently working on the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City and the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park, Chicago.

Their dedication to this work has been recognized by numerous citations including the National Medal of Arts from President Obama, the 2013 AIA Architecture Firm Award, and the 2019 Praemium Imperiale presented by the Japan Art Association.  In parallel with her practice, Billie currently teaches at Yale University as the Charles Gwathmey Professor in Practice, and was recently appointed by President Biden to the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, serving as the first Asian-American and woman to be Chair.  As both an educator and practitioner, she is deeply committed to making a better world through architecture.

Archival Materials Discussed in the Video

Mayan Theater, Los Angeles, opened 1927 (Architect: Stiles Clements) Learn more

Bullocks Wilshire, Los Angeles, opened 1929 (Architects: John and Donald Parkinson) Learn more

Watch A Biography in Blueprint (The John and Donald Parkinson Collection)