Aggie-founded architecture program thriving in Bangladesh

James Walden

Dik Voorman

More than 50 year's ago two adventurous members of the architecture faculty at Texas A&M University traveled with their families and an associate to South Asia to establish the first architectural education program in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. Last February, the fruits of that labor were celebrated when James Walden '55, the surviving member of that Aggie delegation, returned to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the program at what is today the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology.

"Our little school has grown to become one of the largest and most successful architecture and planning schools on the subcontinent," reported Walden in his memoir, "My Dacca Days," published in the March 2012 issue of the Architectural Record. "It now has its own building, a distinguished faculty, and about 400 students."

That's a considerable improvement over the 29 students (three of them women) that constituted the school's fall 1961 inaugural class established by Walden and his associates, Dik Voorman '52, a Texas A&M architecture professor, and Dan Dunham, an architect with Berger Engineers. The initiative, to found an architecture and urban planning program in the fledgling nation, was sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

"When Dik, Dan, and I landed in Dacca (now Dhaka) in early 1961," he wrote, "we had nothing except our enthusiasm: no classrooms, offices, curriculum, or students."

It was a rough start made rougher by monsoon rains, hurricanes, riots, unrest and eventually a war with India, but the programs in architecture and planning eventually took root and flourished with Walden teaching for five years, Dunham a little longer, and Voorman, the school's first dean, remaining until 1968, when he returned to teach at Texas A&M.

Now, more than 50 years since establishing the program in Bangladesh, the Texas A&M College of Architecture is renewing ties with its South Asian offspring. In an April 2012 letter of cooperation the dean's of both schools have agreed to explore opportunities to collaborate and otherwise strengthen their relationship.

posted April 30, 2012