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Moshe Safdie
Moshe Safdie
* Haifa, British Mandate of Palestine, 14 July 1938
nationality: israeli / canadian / american
Moshe Safdie and Associates
Moshe Safdie and Associates, Boston Office
100 Properzy way
MA 02143 Somerville - United States
Tel: +1.617.629.2100 - Fax: +1.617.629.2406
Moshe Safdie and Associates, Jerusalem Office
7 Shlomo Hamelech
94182 Jerusalem - Israel [Yisra'el]
Tel: +972.2.625.1471 - Fax: +972.2.625.4679
Moshe Safdie and Associates, Toronto Office
55 Port Street East
L5G 4P3 Mississauga - Canada
Tel: +1.416.427.8456 - Fax: +1.617.629.2406
Moshe Safdie was born in Haifa, Israel, in 1938. He later moved to Canada with his family, graduating from McGill University in 1961 with a degree in architecture. After apprenticing with Louis I. Kahn in Philadelphia, he returned to Montreal, taking charge of the master plan for the 1967 World Exhibition, where he also realized an adaptation of his thesis as Habitat ‘67, the central feature of the World’s Fair.

Moshe Safdie first established his architectural practice in 1964 in Montreal to design and supervise the construction of Habitat ’67.  In 1970, Safdie established a Jerusalem branch office, commencing an intense involvement with the rebuilding of Jerusalem. He was responsible for major segments of the restoration of the Old City and the reconstruction of the new center, linking the Old and New Cities. Over the years, his involvement expanded and included the new city of Modi’in, the new Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, and the Rabin Memorial Center. During this period, Safdie also became involved in the developing world, working in Senegal, Iran, Singapore, and in the northern Canadian arctic. In 1978, following teaching at Yale, McGill, and Ben Gurion Universities, Safdie relocated his residence and principal office to Boston, as he became Director of the Urban Design Program and the Ian Woodner Professor of Architecture and Urban Design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD). During his twelve years at the GSD he revamped the curriculum and introduced the model of international studios. In the decade that followed, he was responsible for the design of six of Canada’s principal public institutions, including the Quebec Museum of Civilization, the National Gallery of Canada, and Vancouver Library Square.

Safdie’s major cultural and educational commissions in the U.S. have included: the United States Institute of Peace Headquarters on the Mall in Washington, D.C.; the Skirball Cultural Center and Museum in Los Angeles, California; and Exploration Place in Wichita, Kansas; educational facilities such as Eleanor Roosevelt College at the University of California in San Diego; civic buildings such as the Springfield, Massachusetts, and Mobile, Alabama, Federal Courthouses; and performing arts centers such as the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri. In addition to major works of urbanism, Safdie’s work includes two airports - Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Toronto and Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv.

Recent building openings include the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Headquarters in Washington, D.C. (2008), the Springfield Federal Courthouse in Springfield, Massachusetts (2008), and the Telfair Museum of Art in Savannah, Georgia (2006).

Major complexes currently under construction include the Khalsa Heritage Memorial Complex, the national museum of the Sikh people in the Punjab, India; the National Campus for the Archeology of Israel in Jerusalem; Missouri; the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas; the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri; and the six million square foot Marina Bay Sands, a mixed-use integrated resort in Singapore.

The firm has won numerous awards for its designs, including the Governor General’s Medal for Architecture of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (1992) and the Prix d’Excellence en Architecture by the Ordre des Architectes du Québec (1988) for the Québec Museum of Civilization; the Rechter Prize of the Association of Architects and City Planners of Israel (1982) for the Hosh Complex; the Urban Design Concept Award by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (1980) for Coldspring New Town; and the Massey Medal of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (1967) for Habitat ‘67.

A prolific polemicist, Moshe Safdie has continually challenged the status quo while offering insights into his designs through his books, most notably, Beyond Habitat (1970), For Everyone a Garden (1974), Form and Purpose (1982), and Jerusalem: The Future of the Past (1989). The City After the Automobile (1997), details Safdie’s ideas about urbanism and city planning. A comprehensive monograph of his work, Moshe Safdie I, was published in 1996. Moshe Safdie II, a second monograph featuring work from 1996-2008, was published in 2009. His upcoming theoretical work discusses the architecture of humanity in the age of megascale.


In many subtle ways, an architect’s work reflects his or her values, design principles, sensibilities and personal inspirations. We believe a successful building must embody a sense of its purpose, place and tectonics. First and foremost, a work of architecture must give expression to the life for which it is intended: not only must it fully and competently satisfy the requirements of the program, but its form should resonate with the diverse spaces and activities it contains. Similarly, we conceive of architecture as a natural extension of its surroundings—urban or rural, northern or southern, ancient or entirely new—and recognize its responsibility to contribute richly to its setting and enduringly to its community.

To achieve a successful fit between a building’s purpose and its design requires that the architect and the client together engage in a process of exploring the values and choices that will evolve into the final form of the building. An architectural program lists quantitative requirements, but often misses many qualitative issues. Through dialogue, we draw out these subtleties and address the complex issues of a building’s character, image and symbolism. In designing a school, for example, we must ask the fundamental question: what makes a wonderful place for learning? There are obviously many answers. We search for the most appropriate solution in the context of each particular place and time.

We have designed buildings in places as diverse in geography and culture as Boston, Los Angeles, Ottawa, Jerusalem, Mexico and Singapore. Always balancing our broad spectrum of experience with our commitment to develop vital forms, we seek a close connection and reciprocity between a building and its setting, and an architectural language infused with the essence of the cultural context. For every project, an appreciation of the site and region’s landscape, climate and heritage has deepened and enriched our design and construction process. Contemporary architecture often lacks the qualities of ritual and ceremony that have historically been fundamental to civic, cultural and religious life. A central goal of our work is to create unique spaces and forms that introduce a sense of ceremony appropriate to each particular project.

Finally, we believe that people have always derived the greatest pleasure from architecture by recognizing the way in which real materials come together to create a building. One can comprehend how the skeleton, flesh and skin hold together in the colonnade surrounding a temple or in flying buttresses that brace a cathedral’s roof and walls; in the structural lattice of woodwork in a Tudor country house, or in the wood beams and joists of a room. We believe that the qualities of rich and textured detail which we associate with architecture of the past can develop today from careful, innovative and expressive methods of construction. The greatest ornament in architecture depends upon an appreciation of its making. We strive to create buildings that are unifi ed and authentic expressions of their technology, construction materials, setting and purpose.

Edit by Moshe Safdie and Associates
AIA Gold Medal
The American Institute of Architects [AIA]

“Moshe Safdie has continued to practice architecture in the purest and most complete sense of the word, without regard for fashion, with a hunger to follow ideals and ideas across the globe in his teaching, writing, practice and research,”
Lifetime Achievement Award
LEAF International (Leading European Architecture Forum)
1999 - 2011
Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
United States » Kansas City
Khalsa Heritage Complex
India [Bharat] » Anandpur Sahib
2006 - 2010
Marina Bay Sands
Singapore » Singapore
1997 - 2005
Israel [Yisra'el] » Tel Aviv [Gush Dan]
2000 - 2005
Israel [Yisra'el] » Jerusalem [Yerushalayim]
1996 - 2000
Exploration Place
United States » Wichita
1983 - 1988
Canada » Ottawa
1964 - 1967
Canada » Montreal
Peggy Curran, "In Search of the Livable City", The Gazette, Montréal, 15 october 2007 "Voglio città vivibili!", Il Magazine dell'architettura 4, dicembre 2007, allegato a Il giornale dell'architettura 57, dicembre 2007, pp. 28-30
Global Citizen: The Architecture of Moshe Safdie, Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada/Musée des beaux arts du Canada, 8 october 2010/9 january 2011
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