About Us
Contact Us
Architecture and Urban Planning - A Memoir \ David Best
II 1960 - 1970
Holland and London
I had been to Rotterdam before, when I was a student and of course was fascinated by this quite unique city.  This time I wanted to meet an architect whose architecture and urban design work had greatly impressed me. He was a good friend of Georges Candilis and belonged to his architectural group who called themselves: ‘Team Ten’. His name was Yap Bakema.  We arranged to meet by a cafe near his office.   I had described to him my general appearance on the phone but I had no idea what he himself looked like.   As I approached the cafe, a large red faced man, more like a butcher or a baker than an architect, spread his arms out to greet me.  I think I would have been crushed had I entered into his threatening bear hug.   I have never seen Bakema without a broad smile on his face, life for him seemed to be a continual joy, or at least this was his public image.    It was infectious to be in the company of a man who exuded such good will and optimism.   He took me up to his office, a huge sun drenched room about 15 meters long.  On either side there were drawing tables. “This David”, he expansively proclaimed, “is the main street of my town”, indicating his drawing office with a demonstrative sweep of his arms, “and I am the Burgermeister; see how my citizens are all busy at work!”  Several of the architects swung around from their drawing stools, like cows in a field, to recognize my presence.  Their smiling faces were like small versions of Bakema’s.  I have rarely come across a genuinely happier architect's office.  What a contrast to my last visit to Le Corbusier's office ten years before, with its long dark corridor of willing slaves, and what a contrast indeed was the Burgomasters’ reception, with plenty of hot coffee bread rolls with thick slices of Gauda cheese on them.   I told him that I was most anxious to visit his project in Rotterdam - the Lijn-baan. “Tomorrow we will go and see it together” he assured me. This site visit was a revelation. Today, a pedestrian street or precinct is a common occurrence in every large town. But the Lijn-Baan was a seminal project, the first time that an architect had given precedent to the pedestrian, over the automobile, whose misuse had so tragically destroyed the urbanity of old towns and new ones throughout Europe.[America hardly had a pedestrian tradition]   Within a few years I would have the opportunity in the new Town of Arad in the Negev Desert, to design a very different pedestrian street and later still the opertunity to  pedestrianize the Central areas of Jerusalem and Nicosia.  They will be my homage to a great architect and a wonderful human being.   I will meet Bakema again in my Tel Aviv office with the same joy and laughter.

    When I visited the Dutch architect Dudok in Hilvershume, I found a man who understood not only the direction to be followed for the realization of authentic modern architecture, but a planner who had developed a unique craft of neighbourhood develipment.   He continued for many years improving, broadening and deepening his very socially orientated and environmentally sound approach to urban design.   Dudok, together with Asplund, are in my opinion among the most underrated Masters of the Modern Movement in Architecture.
  | Previous Page |   | Next Page | Page 80