In 1971, Moshe Safdie was one of the most famous architects in the world. He was only 33, but his face appeared on the cover of Newsweek as the designer of Habitat for the 1967 World Expo in Montreal. He had submitted the design—basically his master’s thesis for McGill University—while an apprentice in the office of Louis Kahn. Its selection made him an international design star overnight.
In 1978 Safdie moved to Massachusetts in order to teach at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Many projects followed, notably among them the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. The firm now maintains satellite offices in Jerusalem and Singapore, but the Somerville, MA, studio remains the firm’s primary home base. Here the staff of seven works in a state-of-the-art model shop from the conceptual stage through full-scale mock-ups for every project. Throughout, Safdie has remained true to the core principles established at the Habitat housing complex: buildability, integration into the public realm, and humanizing the mega scale.
Finally, Safdie, not wanting to be a “fly in and fly out” academic, began a fellowship program in his office in 2004. The program endows two fulltime architectural researchers, $65,000 each, to spend a year with him exploring a single project to be presented to the staff and inspire future work. The next two years will see an important handful of completed buildings opening in the United States, India, and Singapore.
United States Institute of Peace Headquarters
The Khalsa Heritage Centre
Marina Bay Sands
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
This project seamlessly integrates art, architecture, and landscape within a series of wood and concrete pavilions nestled around shallow ponds fed by a nearby natural spring. The design is focused on protecting the natural beauty of its forested site and emphasizes a strong sense of place by utilizing regional materials. Walking trails and a sculpture, including a site-specific work by James Turrell, will link the 100-acre site to downtown Bentonville.