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Architecture and Urban Planning - A Memoir \ David Best
II 1960 - 1970
A Study Tour in Europe- Denmark and Finland
    I planned my 1960-study tour in Europe with almost military precision.  I drew up a list of talented and mostly famous European architects to whom I wrote letters informing them of my wish to meet them and study their work. In Denmark there was Arne Jacobson and Finn Yull, in Sweden the town planner Sidenblat, the school architect Gildcrist, the critic and publicist Andre Schimmerling and the Swedish based English architect Ralf Erskine.  In Finland there was Alvar Aalto and Aules Blomstead and although I did not know it at the time, I would meet the young Reima Pietila at the beginning of his career. In Holland I wanted to meet a good friend of George Candilis; Yap Bakema from the firm Van de Broek and Bakema and of course W. M. Dudok whose work and ideas had captivated me during my first years of study at Manchester University.  In the UK I would visit my old boss James Cubitt, the town planner Walter Bor and my architect friends from Manchester and London. Later I would of course meet George Candilis and Shaderach Woods in Paris.  I wrote to all these architects in time to get replies from them before I left Israel. Most of them wrote back welcoming me in one sentence; "Ring me when you get here."  I was after all an unknown young architect who was going to take up some of their precious time, so I was encouraged by their generosity of spirit to respond so quickly and positively.  Today I would have got a brush off from an electronic secretary after listening with growing irritation to ten minutes of extension numbers, interspersed with a jolly selection of moronic 'muzak'.  So much for progress and the demise of grace!     My journey this time would be by airplane.   It would be the first time that I would fly with the El Al Airline Company, which had acquired at that time some rather old airplanes, which were called "Constellations".  They were quickly renamed "Cancellations" by the Israelis, in honour of their dubious reliability to leave and arrive on time.  Nevertheless, flying in those days was gracious and pleasurable.  The airports were like animated clubrooms.  On the plane itself there was plenty of legroom and the food was served in third class on porcelain plates with chrome-plated cutlery and a glass of red wine, gratis.

     My aim was not only to see the works of these architects, but also to hear about their methods of design.  I had discovered already for myself that the design process was something of a mystery and by no means the result of a purely rational analysis.  It had been somehow difficult to discuss this aspect of my work with close colleagues in Israel.  It seemed too personal a matter to bare my secrets and expect them to reciprocate.  I felt nevertheless that with strangers  whose works I was already acquainted, I could engage them in a more open discussion.   For them I would be there today and gone tomorrow. I felt that they might be more outgoing in explaining to me their own design processes.  I also hoped to achieve a broad exchange of ideas, which was something I considered to be of considerable importance to me at that stage of my professional development. I was not to be disappointed, although with the exception of Bakema, Arne Jacobson, Sidenblat, Schimmerling, Candilis, Woods, and Dudok, I had only short discussions with the other ‘great men’. Their young assistants however compensated greatly, and in fact would tell me so much more than I think thier employers might have ever disclosed.

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