Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects

Tsien, 61, AIA, and Williams, 68, FAIA, have been working together for more than 30 years. Williams hired Tsien in 1977; he was her first employer. Williams and Tsien formed a full partnership in 1986, five years after the practice moved into a ground-floor space on Central Park. "Within a very short period of time, I realized she was the best thing I could ever have," Williams says.

There's no bureaucracy at Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects. "Of course there are layers that happen over time, but the promotional layer, the admin layer doesn't exist," Williams says.

The studio employs 30 designers, including 5 interns—people who will be returning to school.

"It is a kind of homey situation," Williams says. "The fact is, the designation is residential and commercial. We've kept it that way."

"We interview people because we want them in the studio," Tsien says. "They come understanding that."

Many of the firm's 30 employees bike to the studio, which has three showers and a full kitchen.

The studio expanded in 2000, assuming space formerly used by photographers.

Despite their recent high-profile projects, the designers say that the firm is not growing any time soon. "We don't seek more large projects and we certainly do not seek to grow more people or grow the studio," Williams says.

"Architecture in any studio is a long life and a long day and a lot of work. We recognize that and appreciate it," Tsien says.

"To me it's not so different from the kind of studio atmosphere you have in school," Tsien says. "They [the staff] often come in a little late, but they stay a lot later. There's a lot of self determination."

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