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BAC Alumna Lands Internships with Fallingwater and US/ICOMOS

Olivia Breytenbach

Olivia Breytenbach, MDS-HP '18, came to The Boston Architectural College (BAC) by way of Alberta, Canada. Olivia earned her Bachelor of Science in Architecture in 2016 from Northeastern University, and then enrolled in the BAC's Master of Design Studies in Historic Preservation program. The BAC spoke with Olivia about her interest in historic preservation and heritage conservation, her time at the BAC, and her upcoming internships at Fallingwater and the US/ICOMOS International Exchange Program.

When did you become interested in historic preservation?

I first became interested in historic preservation while studying abroad in Berlin, Germany, as part of my architecture degree from Northeastern. The sense of layered architectural history and expression of that history in Berlin is unlike any other city I've ever experienced - I was captivated by the city's ability to evoke such raw emotions through its historic buildings. From then on, I knew I needed to aim my education and career toward historic preservation.

Were you able to gain experience in historic preservation while getting your bachelor's degree?

During my architecture degree, I was able to work for two exceptional Boston architectural firms, Meyer & Meyer, Inc., and Bargmann, Hendrie + Archetype (BH+A). In both cases, I was exposed to working on historic projects at varying levels, so I gained some experience in the field while still working in a traditional architectural firm setting. After I graduate from the BAC, complete my internships, and head home to Calgary, I'll be looking to get into heritage conservation (the Canadian equivalent of historic preservation) locally.

What attracted you to the BAC?

Since I was an architecture student at Northeastern just down Huntington Avenue, the BAC was on my radar within my first year in Boston. I had colleagues that were graduates of the Master of Architecture program who spoke highly of the school and its faculty, so when the time came to decide which graduate schools to apply to for historic preservation, the BAC was a no-brainer.

The fact that I could earn a graduate degree in historic preservation while being able to move back home to Calgary was very attractive to me - after having been away for almost five years straight, I was desperately craving some time with my family and friends in Alberta. Besides that, the course catalog grabbed my attention. With several courses that would allow me to tailor my electives to my interests in adaptive reuse and international heritage, I knew that I would get an education that best suited my personal aspirations. Having the opportunity to go back and visit Boston, my all-time favorite city, for the Intensives was another factor that made it an easy decision to study at the BAC.

How would you describe your BAC experience?

My experience at the BAC has been exactly what I needed it to be, and it has given me so much more than I could have imagined. Being able to live back home in Calgary while completing this degree has allowed me to make steps forward in my personal life, while the connections I've made at the BAC have pointed me in the direction that I knew I wanted to go in but wasn't sure how quickly it would come together. The opportunities I've been afforded while studying at the BAC have far exceeded my expectations, and I am so grateful for this amazing school for allowing me to grow both personally and professionally.

How did you learn about the two internships, the one at Fallingwater and the US/ICOMOS International Exchange Program?

Eleni Glekas, our amazing program director, frequently sends out emails with internship and employment opportunities that have come to her attention. I first heard about both of these internships in the fall of 2016, but as my summer in 2017 was completely full, I set my sights on applying for both of these internships for this summer.

What sort of work will you be doing during these internships?

For the Fallingwater Internship, I will be starting on June 4 and ending August 10. I will be splitting my time between working with the archival materials and assisting the building preservation crew with various projects related to the preservation of the house itself.

For the US/ICOMOS International Exchange Program, I will be living in Caen, France, and working with the Calvados Ministry of Culture from October 1 through December 10. At the end of my placement, I will be helping out with a three-day series of conferences and site visits related to the revitalization of old city centers in Europe. Throughout the 10-week term I will be mainly focused on studying how to connect the memory-based heritage of the Normandy Beaches to other sorts of local heritage through cultural and economic development of the area.

Have you travelled to France/Europe before? Did you always have a desire to study and work there in some capacity?

Yes, I have! I have been to France twice, once when I was about seven years old and once when I was 17 on a cruise with my family. Otherwise, I lived in Berlin, Germany, for about four months in 2014, and I have also been to Italy, Greece, England, Ireland, Turkey, Denmark, Sweden, Slovakia, Croatia, and the Czech Republic! I have always loved to travel and to experience the world through another culture's perspective, which is a big part of what draws me to international heritage conservation - I would love to work internationally as a career!

Is there something that you're most excited to see and do during these programs?

For Fallingwater, I'm mostly excited to be living and working at one of Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural masterpieces! I've never even visited it before, so this internship will be a real treat for an architecture history buff like myself. I've also never been to Pennsylvania before, so I am looking forward to getting out an exploring the area and nearby states on weekends as well.

For the US/ICOMOS International Exchange Program, I am just thrilled to be back living in Europe, and in such a beautiful city! I'm also looking forward to getting international experience, honing my French back to bilingual fluency, and getting to eat all of the delicious food! Of course, when I have the opportunity I would love to travel a bit - I've always wanted to visit Mont Saint Michel, so I think that will be my first solo trip when I get the chance.

What area of historic preservation do you want to focus on post-graduation? What is your ultimate goal or dream job in this field?

I've definitely got my sights set on a career in international heritage management. I would love to work for UNESCO, ICOMOS (the International Council on Monuments and Sites), ICCROM (the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property), or the IUCN (the International Union for Conservation of Nature) in some respect. I've been looking into their various programs and job titles, and I would love to work my way to becoming a Junior Professional Officer and later becoming part of their International Professional staff. Landing a position that requires me to travel and live and work in different parts of the world would be my ultimate dream job. I would also be very interested in teaching historic preservation (and perhaps courses related to international heritage conservation) at some point in my career, as well!

Chilkoot Trail History document cover by Olivia Breytenbach

A cover of an educational document produced by Olivia as part of her thesis relating to the preservation of historically-significant trails

A cover of an educational document produced by Olivia as part of her thesis relating to the preservation of historically-significant trails.

A cover of an educational document produced by Olivia as part of her thesis relating to the preservation of historically-significant trails