Anne Tyng

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Anne Tyng
Born(1920-07-14)July 14, 1920
DiedDecember 27, 2011(2011-12-27) (aged 91)
Alma materRadcliffe College, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania
PracticeStonorov and Kahn
ProjectsTrenton Bathhouse,
Salk Institute for Biological Studies,
Yale Art Gallery

Anne Griswold Tyng (July 14, 1920 – December 27, 2011) was an architect and professor. She is best known for having collaborated with Louis I. Kahn at his practice in Philadelphia, for 29 years. She served as a professor at the University of Pennsylvania for 27 years, teaching classes in morphology. She was a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and Academician of the National Academy of Design.


Tyng's parents, Ethel Atkinson (née Arens) and Walworth Tyng, were from old New England families and were living as Episcopalian missionaries in China when Tyng was born in 1920, in Lushan, Jiangxi province.[1][2]

As a young woman, Tyng showed her developed sense of mathematics and design. Her invention of the Tyng Toy, at the age of 27, illustrated her mastery of form. A construction set for children, the Tyng Toy allowed a small selection of plywood pieces to be combined into a wide variety of toys and pieces of furniture, ranging from a stool to a rocking horse.[3]


Tyng received her bachelor's degree from Radcliffe College in 1942. Later, she studied with Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer at the architecture school at Harvard University. In 1944, she was among the school's first female graduates.[4] Tyng 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.[1]

She obtained her Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania in 1975. Her dissertation was titled, "Simultaneous Randomness and Order: the Fibonacci-Divine Proportion as a Universal Forming Principle."[5] The school's Architectural Archives holds her collected papers.


Tyng was a theorist known for her passion for mathematics and her pioneering work in space frame architecture, in which interlocking geometric patterns are used to create light-filled spaces. She was particularly interested in platonic solids and in Jungian thought. Her Ph.D. thesis, titled Simultaneousness, Randomness and Order, pursued her interests in hierarchical symmetry and organic form. For her work in this field, she became the first woman to receive a grant from the Graham Foundation, in 1965. Designing an addition to her parents' farmhouse in Maryland, she was also the first architect to frame a traditional peaked-roof house with fully triangulated three-dimensional truss.[6]

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, most notably on the five cubes that comprise the Trenton Bath House and the triangular ceiling of Yale Art Gallery.[1] Tyng also says that the concept for Kahn's famous "City Tower" design was largely her invention, though when the model was included in a show at the Museum of Modern Art, Kahn left her name off of the credit label at first.[7] The two also collaborated on the Eserhick Studio and on Bryn Mawr's Erdman Hall.

Tyng designed the Four-Poster House in Mount Desert Island, Maine. Using logs and cedar shakes, she sought to make the house seem like an outgrowth of its natural environment. The house was also structured around the concept of a four-poster bed, with four central columns, each made from a cluster of four tree trunks, and a top floor entirely given over to a master bedroom.[8] Evidence of her style can also be seen in aspects of her former residence, known as the Tyng house, in Philadelphia's Fitler Square. On its third floor, the building features a pyramidal timber-framed ceiling and slotted windows. Its staircase also utilizes openwork metal screens that she had originally chosen for the Yale Art Gallery project.[9]

In 1989, Tyng published the essay, "From Muse to Heroine, Toward a Visible Creative Identity," which was a study of the development of female creative roles in architecture. In it, she wrote, "The steps from muse to heroine are accomplished by very few. Most women trained as architects marry architects. No longer the women behind the man, the woman architect in partnership with her husband may nevertheless by barely visible beside (or slightly behind) the hero," further noting, "The greatest hurdle for a woman in architecture today is the psychological development necessary to free her creative potential."[10]

Tyng's influence on Kahn's work was recognized very late in her life. The Institute of Contemporary Art held a retrospective exhibition of her work in 2010.[1]

Kahn connection[edit]

Anne Tyng with Louis Kahn, 1947

Tyng is named in many sources as Kahn's partner and muse. In a letter recommending her to the Graham Foundation, Buckminster Fuller called her, "Kahn's geometrical strategist."[4] After a nine-year relationship with Kahn, she became pregnant and, because of the potential scandal, turned down a Fulbright Scholarship and departed in the Autumn of 1953 for Rome.[1] During her year in Italy where their daughter, Alexandra Tyng, was born, Tyng studied with the structural engineer and architect Pier Luigi Nervi and wrote weekly to Kahn.[11] After their falling-out in 1964, Tyng left his firm, where she had been a partner.

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 returned the building on which Kahn and Tyng first collaborated, the Trenton Bath House, for the first time since its completion,[12] finding it neglected and in disrepair. Due in part to the attention that the film drew to the bath house's condition, the building was completely renovated in 2009.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Saffron, Inga (January 7, 2012). "Anne Tyng, 91, groundbreaking architect". Retrieved January 8, 2012.
  2. ^ Whitaker, William. "Anne Griswold Tyng: 1920–2011". Domus. Retrieved October 14, 2015.
  3. ^ Popular Mechanics (August 1950). Put-Together Toys from Plywood Parts. Hearst Magazines. pp. 107–. ISSN 0032-4558.
  4. ^ a b Pogrebin, Robin (January 7, 2012). "Anne Tyng, Theorist of Architecture, Dies at 91". New York Times. Retrieved February 1, 2014.
  5. ^ Anne Griswold Tyng. ""Simultaneous Randomness and Order: the Fibonacci-Divine Proportion as". Retrieved May 31, 2019.
  6. ^ Tyng, Anne Griswold (December 1, 1991). “Synthesis of a Traditional House with a Space-Frame.” International Journal of Space Structures 6(4) : 267–73.
  7. ^ Weiss, Srdjan Jovanovic (May 18, 2011). "Una vita geometrica". Domus (947).
  8. ^ "Four-Poster House". Retrieved 2 February 2014.
  9. ^ Morgan, Susan (May 1, 2012). "Small Wonder". New York Times. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
  10. ^ Tyng, Anne Griswold (1989). Berkeley, Ellen Perry (ed.). Architecture: A Place for Women. Smithsonian Institution Press.
  11. ^ Tyng, Anne Griswold (1997). Louis Kahn to Anne Tyng: The Rome Letters, 1953-1954. Rizzoli. ISBN 0-8478-2009-2.
  12. ^ Kahn, Nathaniel (Director) (November 12, 2003). My Architect (Documentary).

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