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Practice : Winter 2009
a delegation of three educ ator-practitioners led by Marina R oosebeek, their Practical Coordinator, visited the BAC. O ver the course of several d ays that stimulated both the visitors and their hosts, the group conferred with a wide range of instructors, administrators, st udents and employers. All agreed that there was much to be gained by continuing the conver sation a nd exploring new ways to expand the relationship. And so, this past April, when the invitation ca me to President Ted Landsma rk to be a guest of honor at the Centennial Weekend of the Academy in October and to ser ve a s a speaker at a related weekend conference, I gladly tagged along to learn about the school first-h and and further the dia logue on behalf of the BAC. The experience wa s reminiscent of one of our winter Board retreats amplified a hundred- fold. In addition to a magnificent display of a century’s worth of student work, an a ssortment of cocktail and dinner parties, plus animated student merrymaking, there wa s a one-day symposium branded “Reinv enting the Academy.” Ted, who provided the audienc e of several hundred students, faculty and alumni with a descriptive over view of the BAC’s impressive growth a nd broadened outlook during his term, was one of four distinguished speakers. Others included representatives from the AA in London, RWTH University in Aachen, Germany, a nd ETH University in Zurich, a leading science and technology university. The afternoon brea kout se ssions touched on a range of themes, a ll of them applicable to issues and challenges we ourselves grapple with in Boston. How does one translate a desire to offer the top Master of Architecture into excellenc e? What specific essential s for strengthening the conc urrent model of teaching can be achieved, and what changes in curriculum and relations with employers a re needed? How do we best simulate profes sion al practice in design assignments? And my afternoon favorite: How do we train a rchitects a s poetic foxes, a stimulating workshop that explored how be st to inspire students to be innovative and generate creative de sign when their practice employ- ment may not always motivate them in similar fashion. Drawing comparisons with the academy As my week in Amsterdam unfolded and I met with students and instructors in their e vening studios, visited with architectural firms throughout the city, and bega n to c ompare notes with sta ff and administrators, I was con stantly reminded of how similar the two schools actually are. Then again, this was abundantly clear early on, when I arrived back at my hotel room the first evening of my stay after attending a round of meetings a nd studio tours. Waiting for me wa s a welcoming gift package that our gracious hosts had delivered; it contained a bottle of wine, legendary Dutch choc olate, plus a c olorfully printed invitation with agenda for the weekend conferenc e. Inside, the introductory rema rks skillfully summarized what had been undersc ored throughout the e vening’s events. Addressing the idea of c onc urrent learning, the authors declared, “ The Amsterda m Academy is still convinced this model is the be st: the experienced master, involved in practical work, hands over the trade to the student, the apprentice.” Then, a lmost a s if someone had been e aves dropping on one of our c ommittee meetings, it proceeded to offer a warning with a rapid string of four question s that surely resonate: “Howe ver, opinion s on educ ation ch ange. The profession is developing and the world is constantly evolving. Will cu rrent teaching and staffing policies still be relevant in the coming decades? Should the Ac ademy be closer to profes- sional practice? Or should the profession make its own contribution to young designers? Should practice and academic education be clearly differentiated? And while the Academy is a considerably sma ller institution, with approximately 250 students versus the BAC’s 1,200, offering only Master’s degrees in A rchitecture, pRacTIcE ] REachINg acROSS ThE aTlaNTIc Don brown len charney group meeting at DOk ar chitecten pRacTIcE 34