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Practice : Winter 2009
Reaching across the atlantic : learning from the Dutch... again It began with Don Brown, who received a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship to travel to Amsterdam’s Academy of Architecture This story focuses on symmetry, not as it relate s to physic al design and the geometrica l juxtaposition of architectural objects along a facade or within an ornate garden. Rather, it is about the symmetry of beliefs a nd common purpose upheld by two design sc hools thriving independently on opposite sides of the Atla ntic. It describes how a relationship that began more than 40 years a go ha s been rekindled to the point where mea ningful prospects for collab oration are about to unfold. We begin in July 1966, with a young architect and educator by the name of Don Brown receiving a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship to travel to Amsterdam’s Academy of Architecture to teach a first-yea r design studio a nd pursue additiona l graduate study. While attending Har vard’s Graduate School of Design during the preceding two years, one of his visiting critics, the distin- guished Dutch modernist architect, Jacob Bakema , himself a graduate of the Ac ademy in A msterdam, strongly enc ouraged Don to travel across the Atlantic a nd learn more a bout the Dutch educ ationa l system first- hand. De an Cascieri firmly agreed, for here was the only program that either Bakema or the Dean knew of where students were simultaneously working in architectura l practice during the day and attending classes in the evening. Both programs had been founded, without knowing of one a nother, on the time-honored idea of apprenticeship coupled with a concurrent model of cla ssroom learning allowing for a continuum bet ween the academy a nd the profe s sion. What ensued proved to b e a seminal one-year, eye-opening journey for Don Brown. Caught up in the tumultuous ’60s where students in both the U.S. a nd Europe were que stioning conventional approache s to everything, including how to be taught and put to good use one’s education in a socially c onscious way, D on wa s particularly struck by what it meant to have a publicly-funded university provide opportunity to those who would other wise be unable to afford a first-rate education. Graduates were return- ing the favor by providing access to quality design to the society at la rge. He returned home to a BAC itself at a crossroads, having recently moved into its new 6-story home on Newbur y Street, positioned for growth a nd cha nge. Moreover, he felt exhilarated, finding comfort in the knowledge that the BAC was not alone in their approach. And while it was true that there were certain notable difference s bet ween the t wo schools, difference s that he openly described a s he lobbied for specific changes and improve- ments upon his return to the State s, more than anything else he was convinced that the BAC model embodied the be st pathway to be coming a n architect. During the inter vening 40 years, there wa s rel atively little contact bet ween the two schools until the fall of 2006, when pRacTIcE ] REachINg acROSS ThE aTlaNTIc pR acTIcE Len Charn ey, Hea d of Practice academie va n bouwkunst Ted landsmark and len charney view academie alumni Work pRacTIcE 33