Pratt recently welcomed architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien of the New York firm Tod Williams Billie Tsien to the Brooklyn campus, where the husband-and-wife team spoke about their work in front of a packed house in Higgins Hall auditorium on February 19. The talk was part of the Anna and Joseph Syrop Annual Lecture series in the Department of Interior Design, endowed by The Selz Foundation.
Discussing their philosophy of practice and resiliency in architecture, Williams and Tsien shared the process behind many of their internationally acclaimed designs, including the design that recently earned them a 2015 American Institute of Architects Honor Award for Architecture, the LeFrak Center in Prospect Park, along with projects including the David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center, the Barnes Foundation, and Asia Society Center in Hong Kong. The duo also revisited their commission for the 2012 Venice Biennale, noting the contribution by their son, Pratt Industrial Design alumnus Kai Williams (B.I.D. ‘06).
“Architecture is not about instant genius, but one that is developed over many years,” Williams began, leading into a dialogue about the ways to create both designs and a design practice that stand the test of time. “We try to go to places where people make things. You learn so much watching makers,” Tsien added, emphasizing their history of engaging local fabricators, craft, and tradesmen in their projects, along with their tendency to source local materials.
After the talk was opened up to questions from the audience, the discussion circled back to the duo’s design motto. “We believe architecture is an act of profound optimism,” said Tsien, something that she explained not only influences the way they work, but the way in which they think about life as well.