Anne Griswold Tyng (July 14, 1920 – December 27, 2011) was an architect, theorist and academic. She is best known for having collaborated with Louis I Kahn at his practice in Philadelphia. She served as a professor at the University of Pennsylvania for 27 years, following 29 years of collaboration with Kahn. She was a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and Academician of the National Academy of Design.
Youth and education
Tyng's parents were from a wealthy Boston family and were living as missionaries in China when Tyng was born in 1920, in Lushan, Jiangxi province. As a young woman, Tyng showed her developed sense of mathematics and design. The Tyng Toy, a construction set for children, illustrated her mastery of form. The Tyng Toy allowed a small selection of pieces to be combined into a wide variety of toys and pieces of furniture, ranging from a stool to a rocking horse.
After graduating from Radcliffe College in 1942, Tyng attended Harvard University, where she studied architecture under Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer. She graduated in 1944. She was one of the first women to do so. She was the only woman to enter the architecture licensing exam in 1949 and, at the test, one of the male proctors turned his back on her and refused to cooperate. She obtained her Ph.D at the University of Pennsylvania.
Tyng was a theorist known for her pioneering work in space frame architecture and her passion for mathematics. Her Ph.D. thesis, titled Simultaneousness, Randomness and Order, continues the combination of these interests. She received a number of grants from the Graham Foundation for further investigation into this field.
All her working life, Tyng has been fascinated by the Platonic solids, those three-dimensional shapes with equal sides and equal angles (cube, dodecahedron, etc.) that the Greeks discovered, da Vinci drew, and Kepler wrongly but beautifully theorized formed the layers of the solar system. These five shapes are the driving forms behind Tyng’s architecture and form the spaces inside which she envisions life being lived: “living spaces were hollowed out of a consistent geometry as in a bee’s honeycomb.”
Tyng moved to Philadelphia and landed a job at Louis Kahn's architectural practice, Stonorov and Kahn, in 1945. Her fascination with complex geometrical shapes had a strong influence on several projects, such as the Trenton Bath House and the triangular ceiling of Yale Art Gallery.
Many wonder at how her intimate relationship with Kahn affected his architecture. She is named in many sources as his partner and muse. For example, the concept for Kahn's famous "City Tower" design was largely Tyng's invention. After a seven-year relationship with Kahn she became pregnant and, because of the potential scandal, Tyng departed in the Autumn of 1953 for Rome. During her year in Italy, where their daughter, Alexandra, was born, Kahn wrote weekly to Tyng.
Aged 82, Anne Tyng appeared in Nathaniel Kahn's documentary My Architect discussing her insights into his work and her experience with Louis Kahn. Dr. Tyng returns to the building in which Kahn and Tyng first collaborated, the Trenton Bath House, for the first time since its completion, finding it neglected and in disrepair. The building was completely renovated in 2009.
Tyng's influence on Kahn's work was finally recognised, very late in her life. The Institute of Contemporary Art held a retrospective exhibition of her work in 2010.
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