Anne Tyng

On starchitects, domestic violence, and the Stockholm Syndrome.

Le Corbusier. Frank Lloyd Wright. Louis Kahn. Great architects. Lauded visionaries. Master womanizers and manipulators. The film “My Architect”, a documentary about the life of Louis Kahn, provides a disheartening case-in-point.

The film summarizes Kahn’s life: immigrating to the US from Estonia as a five-year old, he grew up poor in North Philadelphia, moving around a lot, but showing an early talent for art.

See also: 10 facts about infidelity 

Laurie Penny on the sex lives of powerful men 

Many Mansions: On the centenary of Louis Kahn’s birth, a look at his legacy. And his secret life.

He eventually earned a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied architecture. He opened a studio in Philadelphia, but didn’t gain notoriety until reaching his 50s. By that time, he also had three children, each by a different woman. The first to whom he remained married; the second whom he ditched for the third; the third whom he strung along until his death in 1974 ((Anne Tyng, a renowned architect in her own right and mother of his second child, pictured above).

The combination of “Stockholm Syndrome” and “cognitive dissonance” produces a victim who firmly believes the relationship is not only acceptable, but also desperately needed for their survival. The victim feels they would mentally collapse if the relationship ended. In long-term relationships, the victims have invested everything and placed “all their eggs in one basket”. The relationship now decides their level of self-esteem, self-worth, and emotional health.

The Stockholm Syndrome: The Mystery of Loving an Abuser


For me, the film unfolded under the dark shadow of male power and naïve female subservience. What is it about women who tolerate, make excuses for, and madly love abusive philanderers, regardless of their own well-being, or that of their children (I ask as a statistic myself, having ended abusive relationships, but never tolerating or excusing, let alone continuing to love the perpetrator)? Do they derive power, prestige, and pleasure from the dysfunctional relationship? Was their 15 minutes of fame in a beautifully-made documentary worth a lifetime of deceit and regret, never mind being portrayed as pathetic fools? All three of these women appeared sad and tragic, not a legacy I choose to leave. But which makes me wonder: is loving someone great inherently more passionate and invigorating than loving someone ordinary? Does greatness require willing recipients for acts of abuse? Surely not.

How do we as a society evolve to expectations of more egalitarian, functional relationships? How do we empower girls to reject these outdated, mysogynistic relationship models? How do we educate boys of the same?

How do girls gain confidence and self-esteem, thus empowering them to unapologetically reject any man who treats her less than a full equal? And though one might argue that infidelity alone doesn’t classify as domestic violence, I argue that it does fall under the domestic violence umbrella, on one end of a long and complicated spectrum.

The types of behaviour associated with coercion or control may or may not constitute a criminal offence in their own right. It is important to remember that the presence of controlling or coercive behaviour does not mean that no other offence has been committed or cannot be charged. However, the perpetrator may limit space for action and exhibit a story of ownership and entitlement over the victim.

– In 2016, the UK expanded its legal definitions of domestic violence.

Being a hero of any discipline does not give license to abuse. While I may appreciate the design philosophies of Louis Kahn, he will never be one of my design heroes. His forms, while noble in theory, are ugly; his lack of personal ethics, reprehensible.


Friday, December 11. The shoes I wore to meet the architect.

I like wood. Concrete. Tile. Marble. Steel. Mullioned glass. I especially like concrete formed to look like wood. Will likes wood, wood, and more wood. And canvas. Concrete, too (although that took some convincing). Copper metals. Granite. Silver. Tile.

“Perfect. It’ll just be a kick-off of interiors thoughts to make sure we’re headed in the right direction. See you then. Campie”

How materials in architecture can form a city’s visual identity.

Also, check this out: Light transmitting concrete.

We spoke of materials today. To inform those we shall use tomorrow.

Boden metallic t-straps

Friday, November 6th. The shoes I wore to meet the architect.

You learn a lot about things you didn’t know you didn’t know when designing a house. Like shear walls.

Soon after that shaking begins, the electrical grid will fail, likely everywhere west of the Cascades and possibly well beyond. If it happens at night, the ensuing catastrophe will unfold in darkness. In theory, those who are at home when it hits should be safest; it is easy and relatively inexpensive to seismically safeguard a private dwelling.The Really Big One, The New Yorker

We are grandfathered in to a house of cards.

A shear wall is a strategically-placed wall designed to transmit lateral forces caused by, say, an earthquake, into the ground. The city of Seattle requires seismic code compliance for residential architecture. Our current house, built in 1900, has no shear walls, let alone the required added redundancy for earthquake protection; we are grandfathered in to a house of cards.

But, lulled into nonchalance by their seemingly benign environment, most people in the Pacific Northwest have not done so. That nonchalance will shatter instantly. So will everything made of glass. Anything indoors and unsecured will lurch across the floor or come crashing down: bookshelves, lamps, computers, cannisters of flour in the pantry. Refrigerators will walk out of kitchens, unplugging themselves and toppling over. Water heaters will fall and smash interior gas lines. Houses that are not bolted to their foundations will slide off—or, rather, they will stay put, obeying inertia, while the foundations, together with the rest of the Northwest, jolt westward. Unmoored on the undulating ground, the homes will begin to collapse.

Our new house, though, will be much safer. In addition to seismic building code compliance, we’re embracing post-modern design, with a focus on classic, symmetrical proportions, which are preferred for earthquake retrofitting. That and we’re embracing the constraints.

The architect should be prepared to accept structural forms or assemblies (such as increased size of columns and beams) that may modify the design character, and should be prepared to exploit these as part of the aesthetic language of the design rather than resisting them.

The architect and engineer should both employ ingenuity and imagination of their respective disciplines to reduce the effect of irregularities, or to achieve desired aesthetic qualities without compromising structural integrity. – Seismic Issues in Architectural Design,



A Second Sunday. An Eleventh Month.

Butter yellow formica isn’t a material you see everyday. Unless you’re at my house. Our dining room table is butter yellow formica, with metal trim and dark wood legs. We bought it at an architectural salvage store in Baltimore for $60. We love that table, and have had many a great conversation and hearty laugh around it. Here’s to many more.

A beautiful, related essay: The Families We Choose.

These days, tables have come to represent a surface where sustenance and creation come together – a place to wonder and to solve problems, to probe and to redefine our roles. It stands as a symbol of our connectedness with each other and with ourselves: We come to eat, we stay to dine. In this way, the table has become a site where our lives play out and where we draw ideas and narratives into existence. How we set the table, how we spend time at the table and who we choose to share the table with directly reflects the way we live away from the table – change one, and you’ll inevitably change the other. – Kinfolk, Issue 18: The Family Issue

Second Sundays, November 2015: Ann, Erika, Olga, Alex, Stacey, Jay, Aaron, Andrew, and Callie, Will, Oslo and Mies (Hosts). Video below also from Kinfolk, Issue 18: The Family Issue.

Parisians at a café on the Left Bank, engaging in the most Parisian of activities. Paris, March 2014. Photo by Callie Neylan.

Vive la France! Or why I fly the French flag.

Why would I go to the funeral of a friend or relative but not all of the funerals happening in my city that day? Why would I visit my own sick child in the hospital but not the hundreds of other sick ones, too? Why do I, an American, fly the French flag after the attacks of last Friday, and not the flags of other nations who’ve suffered similar tragedies?


Muslim girl on the Seine.

A young Muslim girl on the banks of the Seine. Paris, France. March 2014. Photo by Callie Neylan.


So Much For Freedom Fries: America’s New BFF is France

Because it boils down to this: personal, shared stories.

See also: A Brief History of Pierre L’Enfant and Washington, D.C.

Without the French, there would be no America. Without America, there would be no France. Our very first ally, they helped us win the Revolutionary War; sold us the Lousiana Purchase; lent us their architects inspiring the beautiful, classic, timeless design of our capital city;  housed and inspired many of our greatest writers, like Richard Wright, Ernest Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald; and most importantly, provided many of the philosophical frameworks on which we built our American ideals.

Few terrorist attacks in foreign lands have seized the attention of this country like the carnage in the streets of Paris, a city an ocean away but glittering in the memories of countless American honeymoons, junior years abroad and bucket-list vacations. – The New York Times

In turn, we saved them from the Germans during World War I, saved them again during World War II, and cry more for their cities and their people when, all other things equal, tragedies happen on French soil. The first thing our earliest refugees saw when immigrating to American shores was the Statue of Liberty. Our first tangible face to the world, a French face: one of our most recognizable icons, a gift from the French people to a foundling, idealistic, starry-eyed democracy. Of course we pledge their allegiance first: that’s what old friends with these kinds of intimate, shared stories do.


Waiters on the Left Bank, Paris. March 2014.

Waiters on the Left Bank in the 6ème Arrondissement, Paris. March 2014.

2014-03-10 08.00.05 2014-03-10 07.57.20 2014-03-10 07.56.37

2014-03-10 07.17.26 2014-03-10 07.13.45
2014-03-08 13.43.43 2014-03-08 10.47.17 2014-03-08 10.39.33 2014-03-08 10.26.05 2014-03-08 09.27.22 2014-03-08 09.25.52 2014-03-07 03.23.46 2014-03-07 03.23.20 2014-03-06 12.52.31 2014-03-06 10.35.12 2014-03-05 08.15.55 2014-03-05 07.45.46 2014-03-05 07.01.53 2014-03-05 06.48.22


Photos taken by me during our trip to Paris in March 2014.

The first time I ever set foot on foreign soil, it was French soil. I’ll never forget that day I emerged wide-eyed in the gates at Charles de Gualle airport, July 1996, on my way to southern France to study for the summer. I’ll never forget the first time someone spoke to me directly in French and how in an instant, theory met reality and everything I learned in my years of French study alluded me for an instant, rendering me speechless as I struggled to find les mots justes.

I’ll never forget stuffing three Americans, four suitcases, and two French hosts in a Citroën not much bigger than a smart car, driving from Marseille to my French family’s apartment in Aix-en-Provence.

I’ll never forget the first time I walked down a French cobble-stoned street, presented with the golden ratio embedded in beautiful architecture, everywhere I looked.

I’ll never forget my little French room with the terracotta balcony overlooking a dozen more terracotta balconies in the Mediterranean sun. I’ll never forget the bowls of coffee every morning for breakfast and the paté-smeared French bread everyday for lunch.

I’ll never forget Corrine, Lauren and Astrid Machulka, my wonderful host family, who greeted me with a cheerful French “Coucou!” every morning when I woke up. I’ll never forget how she a single mother, and me, a single one too, used to compare notes as we drove her daughters along the sea to their father’s in Avignon for le weekend avec leur pere.

I’ll never forget meeting my dear friend Christina – my friend to this day – and how we used to make fun of the French and their condescending rudeness even though we both loved the French and everything about them. Nor how we used to laugh our brash American laughs as we imitated Texans speaking French on the curbs of the Cours Mirabeau. Our friendship, nee en France, is a true French citizen.

I’ll never forget my first French pain au chocolat and French crepe, my first topless sunbathing experience on a rock by the Coté d’Azur followed by my first cliff jumping into a deep sparkling sea. Nor my first ride on the TGV and that time in the Latin Quarter on my last night during that first summer in France, laughing and joking and speaking much more fluent French with a long table of French, who pulled us, les jolies Americaines! into their fold as we walked down the street.

I’ll never forget how that first travel abroad expanded my world and changed me forever.

#newyorktimes #peaceforparis

A photo posted by Guillaume Gouix (@guillaumegouix) on

Paris, je t’aime.

pink sandals

Tuesday, Sept 8th. The shoes I wore to meet the architect.

In my life, I have been told I resemble a prettier version of Allison Janney; easily passed off as Katharine Hepburn at a Halloween party; most recently been compared to Claire on House of Cards. Which is not to say that we’re doppelgängers by any means, but the concept of resemblance is a notable thing.

In architecture, doppelgängers abound, with East Coast row house architecture an especially relevant case-in-point. Our Baltimore rowhouse looked exactly like the ones next to it and for blocks around, with the only opportunity for variation the design of the front door and paint color of trim.

Bolton HIll row house

Our classic, 1860s Italianate row house at 129 West Lafayette Avenue in Baltimore’s Bolton Hill neighborhood, 2010 or 11.

East vs. West: Stark Coast-to-Coast Culture Clash Revealed

Which makes me wonder again (for I am always, always wondering) about architecture and how it shapes who we are. As residential architecture traveled West, it became less conforming, more open, more individual: the detached, single family home. Did this building philosophy, in turn, produce the freer, more open, innovative culture that the West is known for?

The culture that basically enabled the majority of modern-day technical and culinary innovation? Or did that spirit come first, influencing the architecture? I argue it was the latter.

The National Journal on the spirit of the West Coast: “This re­gion is rich­er, has more res­id­ents with col­lege de­grees, and is more in­nov­at­ive than oth­er areas.”

Only the most fearless – those with guts, drive, and ambition – were brave enough to leave the East Coast traditions and establishment, to venture unfettered and free into the wild, wild, unknown West.

As we build our new house on a hill on a hill, we know that while it will contain recognizable elements of East Coast architecture – the classic proportions and stately grace – the core of our house, via the utilization of local materials and a certain je ne sais quoi, will reflect the beautiful, wild spirit of my home, our home, the birthplace of the Dixon matriarch, the cradle of our joining – to wit, the wonderful, magical, transpiring American West.

“Why did you come West, Will?” I asked. “To remake myself”, he said. “Everyone knows that in order to remake yourself, you go West. It is the mystical pull of the American existence.”

architectural rendering

Architectural rendering from our second round of iterations with MW/Works, integrating design influences from a classic Seattle Box and the Baltimore Rowhouse. September, 2015.


Oslo and Mies at the juncture between the living room and stately entry hall. High ceilings are a defining feature of row house architecture, a design element crucial to air circulation during the time before central heating and air, and one that we’re stealing for the new house. Baltimore, Maryland, 2010-11.

Architectural detail of the Baltimore house, front entry all, 2010-11.

Architectural detail of the Baltimore house, front entry all, 2010-11.

Architectural detail of the Baltimore house, front entry all, 2010-11.

Architectural detail of the Baltimore house, front entry all, 2010-11. We brought two chandeliers with us when we returned to Seattle, much to the chagrin of our Baltimore real estate agent.

Architectural detail of the Baltimore house, looking toward the back of the house via the front living room, 2010-11.

Interior transom windows are a design element we’ll be carrying over into the new 1934. Architectural detail of the Baltimore house, looking toward the back of the house via the front living room, 2010-11.

Will and Mies, standing next to the original marble mantle. Baltimore, Maryland. 2009-11.

Will and Mies, standing next to the original marble mantle. Baltimore, Maryland. 2009-11. I would like to buy a used mantle secondhand from a salvage lot in Baltimore, or perhaps have a replica cast in concrete for 1934.


On being subtle but not small.

Subtle. The difference between a male and female jawline. The angle of the forehead, the curve of the brow.

There’s an algorithm for that: an electronic tongue taste differences in beer.

Minor. The delta between the girl and boy nutmeg trees. One bears fruit, the other, the flower. In the beginning, differences so subtle, they’re almost invisible.

From the Smithsonian: Is the skeleton male or female? The pelvis tells the story.

Little. The crevice between red and pink. The flavor variation between oregano and thyme.

Tiny. It takes special tools to tell the difference between a zirconia and a diamond.

Subtle changes in ocean temperatures can mean the difference between life and death.

Hidden. Which is the truth, which is a lie? Sometimes, subtlety is intuited from the gut. Sometimes subtle is a clue.

Subtlety is often a synonym for the small and barely noticeable. But what does it mean to be subtle, really? What does it mean to sport a change so minuscule indicating a variation on the majuscule?

Climate, terroir, and taste in wine: “Geology and soil do not produce these broad differences, but they do produce the subtle expressions of these qualities within the same climate or region.” The same could be said for cacao and wheat.

In the absence of externalities, i.e., skin, hair, fat, and muscle, forensic scientists can tell the difference between male and female skeletons based on subtle differences in geometric angles of key human bone structures, like the jaw, hip, and brow.

In the absence of light, dogs can smell the difference between a healthy mole and a cancerous one. In the presence of tastebuds, slight differences in flavor profiles of single-origin chocolate, coffee, or wine can signify variations of thousands of miles, cultural deltas of distant peoples, and chemistries of entire continents.

That is to say, the drastic is often indicated by the seemingly small. Whisper. Trickle. Glance. Brush. Tap.

Subtle things are not little. Subtle things are big. Subtle things the signifier, big the signified.


On N.W.A., truth in journalism, and free speech.

I don’t know why I am so interested in social justice. I don’t know why I am so sympathetic to the plight of African-Americans. I think it started when I was in grad school and read Random Family while researching the War on Drugs for a design project. Or maybe it was before that, when Will and I watched a documentary on Brown v Board of Education at the Tribeca Film Festival while in New York for a wedding.

Stories change brain chemistry, affecting the way we think and act.

Or maybe it was way, way before that, when, as a very young mother in 1990, I couldn’t stop reading about the Holocaust, lugging home piles of books to our tiny lakeside cabin in Pagosa Springs from the Durango Public Library, engrossed in the horrors of Auschwitz and Treblinka while Seth played Legos and I nursed Michaela in that blue velvet rocker from Sears Roebuck. Like it or not, there are ugly parallels between the Holocaust and racism in America.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Steven Covey had it right.

I read Native Son and watched the Wire, lived in DC and Baltimore and watched Fresh. My daughter had a baby with a black man. David Simon is my hero and I am so inspired by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I cannot not see race; to pretend like it doesn’t exist is not an option for me. So I seek it out, stories that are not mine, to better understand and empathize. To imagine what it might be like to live outside of the white privilege power structure. Last night, I learned about the history of N.W.A. via the film Straight Outta Compton. A group I was never really exposed to because that story is not mine. But a story I want to know for that very reason.

Adrienne Green writes in the Atlantic:

“At a time when the #BlackLivesMatter movement and increased coverage of police killings is dominating the public discourse, Straight Outta Compton raises questions about the responsibility of rap artists in bearing witness, as N.W.A. did, to the problems affecting their communities.

Hip hop has historically been one of the ways for black Americans to see a reflection of their lives in mainstream art, and the ’80s and ’90s were no different. “Rap was the black community’s CNN,” says Akil Houston, a hip-hop scholar, DJ, and assistant professor at Ohio University. In Straight Outta Compton, N.W.A. believes as much. “Our art is a reflection of our reality,” says Ice Cube (played by Ice Cube’s son, O’Shea Jackson Jr.) in the film. He even refers to himself as a journalist who’s “reporting on his community” more honestly than the media itself. When N.W.A.’s manager urges the group to work instead of watching a video of the officers on trial for the Rodney King beatings, they answer: This is the work.”

J. Crew Sandals

Friday, August 21. The shoes I wore to meet the architects.

A set of Copic markers is not cheap. But good tools are valued in the Office Design studio, where we have a large, colorful set; we are, after all, toolmakers.

Adobe Says Drawing Should Be Like Writing—A Skill We Teach Everyone

If only I used them more often.

We met last week with the architects for our first design session, at their studio on Western, mullioned windows dividing Elliott Bay into a choppy grid. I was jealous. Jealous of their sketches and the markers that preceded them. I learned to draw in design school, but not like an architect.

“The sketch, then, despite often being the size of a stamp or a pack of matches, is neither the representation nor the embryo of the idea but rather, as Franco Purini said, “the DNA of ideas”. It is the idea’s genesis because it tends to solve, within the context of the inventive kernel of activity, every complexity of what is still outside that kernel, however temporarily.” – Paolo Belardi, Why Architects Still Draw


“Sketchbooks are not about being a good artist, they’re about being a good thinker.

Obviously, some people do bring the practice of sketching to a higher art form, but to me, it’s always been about visual brainstorming and record-keeping in a format with a ridiculously low barrier to entry. My drawings look like shit, but fidelity doesn’t matter as long as I can convey my ideas to others or to my future self.

We should revel in not caring how good or bad we are, and by knowing that we hone our creativity with each stroke of the pencil.” – Jason Santa Maria, Pretty Sketchy


How To Think Like An Architect: The Design Process





The sketches produced made us happy, with many of the divergent ideas we’ve been struggling to realize, finally visualized in graphite form. We are close to a finished design. Very close.