From the 13th of January to the 20th of March – Institute of Contemporary Art. University of Pennsylvania

Visionary architect and theorist Anne Tyng has designed a gallery-scale model that embodies her thinking about geometry over the last half century. This installation—built largely from Luan plywood—realizes the ambition of all her work: to inhabit geometry. Since the 1950s, when she worked closely with Louis I. Kahn and independently pioneered habitable space-frame architecture, Tyng has applied natural and numeric systems to built forms on all scales, from urban plans to domestic spaces.

Upon entering Tyng’s installation at ICA, one walks into the five Platonic solids, literally. A tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, icosahedron, and dodecahedron, each is built to human scale and can be entered, explored, comprehended. For optimum effect, look through these open structures at the massive spiral that lifts from the wall and rotates towards the ceiling. This is how Tyng sees the world and derives her own built forms, through the symmetries, orders, and dynamic progressions by which one form in geometry becomes another. The exhibition also features a selection of drawings, models, and other documentation of past projects, including: City Tower (with Kahn, 1952-1957); Urban Hierarchy (circa 1970); and the Four-Poster House (1971-1974). There are also examples of Tyng’s publications and research, which investigate Jungian cycles, city squares, and the cosmos. Throughout, geometry is both rational and expressive, as much a means of contemplation as of calculation and construction.

Born in Jiangxi, China to missionary parents in 1920, Tyng spent long hours carving cities out of the soft stone of her garden terrace. After graduating from Radcliffe College in 1942, Tyng became one of the first women to receive a Masters of Architecture from Harvard University. She gained early recognition for the Tyng Toy, a kit of wooden puzzle-like pieces from which children could build furniture and other things. Starting in 1947 she worked closely with Louis I. Kahn and was instrumental in the design of the Trenton Bath House and Yale University Art Gallery, among other projects. In 1965, she was the first woman to receive a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advancement in the Fine Arts. In 1964, The Divine Proportion in the Platonic Solids, featuring an enormous space frame, was exhibited at the University of Pennsylvania, where Tyng earned a doctorate in 1975 and then taught for almost thirty years. Her papers are housed at The Architectural Archives at Penn.

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