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The Geometry as a Decoder of Gravity: Anne G. Tyng’s Elementary School in Bucks County P. A. U. S

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Part of the Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing book series (AISC,volume 1296)


The emergence of complex phenomena in our time has forced creators to connect knowledge with design. In architecture, this situation has provoked an interest in hidden or little-known historical academics who, for years, sought design answers in the interconnection with different dimensions of reality. In particular, we have been interested in how this happens in the architecture of the American northeast, more precisely the derivations of European theories in the mid-twentieth century. Above all, we were interested in the person of Anne Griswold Tyng,—who had a close professional and personal relationship with Louis Isadore Kahn, but specifically, in the way she materialized her seminal work between 1951 and 1953. In the text, this subject is addressed through her seminal project Elementary School in Bucks County P. A., which makes up the DNA of this architect’s work. The project is based on a prefabricated generative system of interconnected parts of tetrahedrons and octahedrons capable of producing a diversity of responses at different scales. Therefore, methodologically, we will penetrate A. G. Tyng’s imaginary and real-world of manufacture. An ideology conceived thanks to a search to integrate space and structure. There, geometry acted as an instrument to extract the structural codes underlying matter, what enabled her to defy gravity. The results of the study indicated that the ideal of progress, along with science and technology in the United States in the mid-twentieth century, fueled a flow of ideas between the professional and educational worlds. This led to a readjustment of the then-dominant reductive and totalizing architectural models. This fact guided Anne G. Tyng towards reflective inter- and transdisciplinary models close to generative systems and complex thinking, which helped this architect in her search to find the structures of tomorrow.


  • Anne G. Tyng
  • Louis I. Kahn
  • Geometry
  • Structure
  • Seminal works

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  1. 1.

    A. G. Tyng said: “I Heard a lecture by Fuller, and I was very excited about it”.

  2. 2.

    Kahn, L. I. (2003). Monumentality (1944). In A. Latour, Louis I. Kahn: escritos, conferencias y entrevistas (P. 23–33). Madrid: El Croquis Editorial. P. 31: “The project does not begin or end with the space that the architect has wrapped, but from the careful modeling of the adjacent land […]. The contiguous terrain molding orders the architect's intention to configure it with geometric planes and more powerful cubes […]”.

  3. 3.

    Kahn, L.I. (1959) said in Otterlo: “In the preform —in the beginning, in the first form—lies more power than in anything that follows […]”.

  4. 4.

    Fuller, R. B. (1975). Synergetic Exploration in the Geometry of Thinking. New York: Macmillan Publishing. P. 337, 62107. The tetrahedron and octahedron can be produced by multiple layers of compact packing of spheres.

  5. 5.

    The pyramid trunk is the geometric body that results from cutting a pyramid along a plane parallel to the base and separating the part that contains the vertex. That is, the tetrahedron can be sliced parallel to one of its faces, removing a layer of any thickness, to produce a new and smaller tetrahedron with the same shape, but different size than the original.

  6. 6.

    Fuller, R. B. (1975). Synergetic Exploration in the Geometry of Thinking. New York: Macmillan Publishing. P. 135…420.01: “When the center of the sphere in the compact packaging is joined by the most efficient lines […] an “isotropic” matrix is discovered […]. This matrix constitutes a set of equilateral triangles that corresponds to the integral coordination more efficient nature […]”.

  7. 7.

    Tyng, A. G. (1952). Scholarship Fulbright, proposed summary. 74. II.A.48 Anne Griswold Tyng Collection. Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

  8. 8.

    Considering this, she applied for a Fulbright scholarship in 1952, months after finishing her elementary school project. As a work plan, she proposed to increase her understanding of the historical-evolutionary process in building structures. To achieve this, A. G. Tyng planned to travel to Italy and study this structural evolution from the primitive hut of Trullo to the giant three-dimensional structures of the Italian engineer Pier Luigi Nervi. So, A. G. Tyng, as L. I. Kahn suggests in his article Monumentality, resorted to science, technology; but also, to the past to legitimize her architecture.

  9. 9.

    Kahn, L. (1953). Toward a plan for Midtown Philadelphia. Perspecta (2), 11–27. “In Gothic times the architects built with solid stone. We can now do it in hollow stone”.

  10. 10.

    Anne Griswold Tyng Collection, Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania. 74. II.C.18.

  11. 11.

    The Platonic Solids, August, 1964. University of Pennsylvania. Source: Tyng Collection, AAUP, 74.II.A.39.2.


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I express my gratitude to the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, the ETSAB Barcelona School of Architecture and, especially to the academic director of this doctoral work, Dr. Antonio Pizza de Nanno, for providing this work opportunity. Similarly, to the Francisco de Paula Santander University (Cúcuta, Colombia), which made possible my participation in the Official Master and the current PhD scholarship. I also want thank to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission of the University of Pennsylvania for giving me access to the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania and its collections, and I thank the University of Pennsylvania and its School of Design for extending me a visiting scholar to continue with my research topic.

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Carrero, J.M.V. (2021). The Geometry as a Decoder of Gravity: Anne G. Tyng’s Elementary School in Bucks County P. A. U. S. In: Cheng, LY. (eds) ICGG 2020 - Proceedings of the 19th International Conference on Geometry and Graphics. ICGG 2021. Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing, vol 1296. Springer, Cham.

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