Moshe Safdie and His Architectural Practice

Architect urban planner

The architect and urban planner, Moshe Safdie is world's renowned for his head turning designs. He always embraces a comprehensive and humane design philosophy and is committed to architecture that supports and enhances a project's program; and is informed by the geographic, social, and cultural elements that define a place; and also that responds to human needs and aspirations. He believes that a successful building must embody a sense of its purpose, place and tectonics. Most importantly, a work of architecture must give expression to the life for which it is intended: it not only satisfies the requirements of the program competently, but also its form should resonate with the diverse spaces and activities it contains.

He has worked on wide range of projects including cultural, educational, and civic institutions; neighborhoods and public parks; mixed-use urban centers and airports; and master plans for existing communities and entirely new cities around the world.

About Moshe Safdie

Moshe Safdie
Born in Haifa, Israel, in 1938, Safdie moved to Canada with his family at a young age. He graduated from McGill University in 1961 with a degree in architecture. After working two years in the office of Louis I. Kahn in Philadelphia, he started his own practice in Montreal in 1964.

He was approached by Sandy van Ginkel, his thesis advisor, to develop the master plan for the 1967 World Exhibition. Influenced by his graduate thesis at McGill, Safdie refined a series of "Habitat" designs which revolved around a cellular housing scheme. Initially his ideas proved expensive and difficult to construct, but Safdie introduced the cellular scheme in several areas including New York and Puerto Rico where his ideas were successfully initiated.

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.

Salt Lake City Library

In 1978, after teaching at Yale, McGill, and Ben Gurion Universities, Safdie relocated his residence and principal office to Boston. He served as Director of the Urban Design Program at Harvard University Graduate School of Design from 1978 to 1984, and Ian Woodner Professor of Architecture and Urban Design from 1984 to 1989. In the following decade, 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 Architect's Design Philosophy

National Gallery of Canada
Safdie Architects conceives 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. According to the practice, to achieve a successful fit between a building's purpose and its design, it needs the architects and the clients together engage in a process of exploring the values and choices that will evolve into the final form of the building. As an architectural program lists quantitative requirements, but often misses many qualitative issues. So through dialogue or interaction, Safdie Architects draws out these subtleties and address the complex issues of a building's character, image and symbolism. In accord to practice, for a single project whether commercial, residential and so on, there are number of options and ways but they search for the most appropriate solution in the context of each particular place and time.

Safdie's Architectural designs are based on the following philosophy:
  • One of the most important goals in architecture is to create meaningful, vital and inclusive social spaces. We are responsible for shaping not only a project's program but also its large civil role of enabling and enriching the community.
  • Architecture is not about building an impossible structure but about building what makes sense for a specific program and for a particular setting. The notion of ‘inherent buildability' is central to our work.
  • We believe that architecture grows out of a vision of the way it can affect the lives of the individuals for whom buildings and public spaces are created.
  • As an architect, we are responsible for designing buildings that address human needs and aspirations. For example, a school above all else, must be a wonderful place for learning. Every elements of each design must be an expression of the life intended in a building.
  • The strength of our practice lies in the geographical and cultural diversity in which we work.
  • Sustainability has been a guiding principle of our work. As architect, we have a responsibility to respond to the issues of energy conservation, of ecology and of renewable materials. We have to use resources efficiently while we advance our clients goals.

Prestigious projects

Peabody Essex Museum
Moshe Safdie's works are known for their dramatic curves, arrays of geometric patterns, use of windows, and key placement of open and green spaces. He has worked with a wide range of clients, including municipal entities and government agencies, colleges and universities, private developers, non-profit making organizations and civic institutions. Many of his firm's buildings have become beloved regional and national landmarks, including Exploration Place Science Center, Wichita, Kansas; Salt Lake City Public Library, Salt Lake City, Utah; Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts; Springfield Federal Courthouse, Springfield, Massachusetts; Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, California; LesterB. Pearson International Airport, Toronto, Canada; the National Gallery of Canada; Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, Jerusalem etc.

Some of the major projects currently under construction or recently completed by the Safdie Architects include: Mamilla Alrov Center, a dynamic urban center near the Old City in Jerusalem; Marina Bay Sands, a mixed-use integrated resort in Singapore; Khalsa Heritage Memorial Complex, the national museum of the Sikh people in Punjab, India; the United States Institute of Peace Headquarters on the Mall in Washington, D.C.; the National Campus for the Archeology of Israel in Jerusalem; the West Edge project, a mixed-use facility in Kansas City, Missouri; the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri; and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.

In addition to numerous articles on the theory and practice of architecture, Safdie has written several 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.

He has been the recipient of numerous awards, honorary degrees, and civil honors, including the Companion Order of Canada and the Gold Medal of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada.

Sustainability: A Solution to Contemporary Problems

Every era depicts its own style of architecture - affecting people’s lifestyle as well as the culture of that place. Traditional architecture was the result of a concentration of people in a location as the population was unevenly distributed and was concentrated more Read More ...

Courtyards: The Indoor Outdoor Connect

Architects are increasingly embracing the old wisdom of incorporating a courtyard in their design of residences and other housing projects, despite the space constraints and the growing demand for more infrastructure, in order to create a multi-use functional Read More ...

Transforming Complexity of Form to Simple Functionality

Prof. Ar. Charanjit Singh Shah, Founding Principal, Creative Group & Chairman - Smart Habitat Foundation, in conversation with Ar. Kritika Juneja at Creative Group, discusses why it is important to take a holistic design approach when it comes to airports Read More ...

Ar. Parul Zaveri Abhikram

I believe that ‘architectural style’ should be a response to the various climatic zones in context of India, to be designed according to clients’ personalities and project needs. Each place has a plethora of creative solutions, that have evolved using local resources and techniques, which constitute the part of our architectural knowledge. It is necessary to achieve a balance between continuity and desirable change, without fossilizing the past, and without making the change incongruent with... Read More ...

Ar. Reza Kabul ARK Reza Kabul Architects

I believe in liberating spaces, not enclosing them. Every space needs to have a good optimum, be it a small sized apartment or large commercial offices. Every good designer analyses the plans from the client perspective, regarding practicality, functionality, and accessibility, before executing it. I don’t believe in confining spaces between four walls, on the contrary, I believe in open spaces, both for the interiors and exteriors.It takes exemplary quality to reach elusive heights. The... Read More ...

Ar. Lalichan Zacharias Atelier

My approach to design is simple and open. I start my design with two guiding factors: the requirements and the site. I would like to see the building grow from the site naturally while fulfilling the requirements. I try to keep it extremely simple and responding to the climate. Integration of nature in the built form is always given importance.  Round Chapel Kalamassery Ar. Geoffrey Bawa’s works have always inspired me. Another aspect which influence my design is the sociological aspect of it.... Read More ...

Ar. Sourabh Gupta Archohm

I believe that the language and vocabulary of architecture is not a question about style. Every building is built for a specific purpose, in a particular setting, for a set of audience, and it is therefore intentional that we don’t impose any pre-defined visual form onto a project, rather let things emerge as the project evolves. There is a deliberate attempt to not make specific choices in our design directions.As a philosophy, we try to work on projects that allow an element of... Read More ...

Ar. Jay Shah Access Architects

Architectural style is characterized by the feature that makes a building structure notable and visibly identifiable. Every architect has a specific style and I would call mine “form follows function” as was the thought of Architect Louis Sullivan. However, my style of architecture is not confined to one kind since every client is different, every project is unique, every plot is diverse, and every functionality brief is exclusive. So, any one style of architecture doesn’t work as the design... Read More ...

Ar. Dinesh Verma Ace Group Architects

My style is versatile. In today’s context, where pace and universal availability of materials supported by technology is the base, it is but imperative to develop designs that are adaptable and go with the times. Around 30 years back, when I started my design practice, local and natural materials were in use, Granite was not less than 75mm thick, walls were minimum 112mm and wood was available in plenty. We did a lot of work in natural brick, stone and wood. Even today, the Mysore Haat... Read More ...

Ar. Alfaz Miller & Aahana Miller ABM Architects

The designs by our firm have not changed the skyline of cities, but our smaller architectural projects of commercial buildings and bungalows have made a significant design impact, producing architecture that is site specific, sensible and timeless.We believe in architecture that is simple and controlled and lacks stylised decoration. With large exposure to interior design, the buildings we design are practical with emphasis on function rather than just form. The designs are constructive, with... Read More ...

Ar. Ahmed Shaikh Ahmed & Associates

Architecture is an ever-evolving process and depending on the lifestyle, material availability, weather conditions, and geographical location, we can apply various types of styles. In Mumbai, for instance, we can see contemporary architecture along with classical typology.I believe that there is no single style to work on as we try to give multiple options depending on the clients’ requirements. Our style includes contemporary, classical, art deco, and minimalistic, which we can identify by... Read More ...

Ar. Shobhan Kothari & Ar. Anand Menon ADND & KdnD Studio

We constantly strive for simplicity of form and design. Our architectural style is a minimalistic interplay of lines, planes and volumes. We believe that beauty lies in the ability of a design to be explained through a few lines. We constantly explore the power of lines and their ability to shape space. We work intuitively to create spaces that are episodal and spatially engaging. The core aspects of scale and proportion in design are constantly debated upon to arrive at spaces that balance... Read More ...

Ar. Arpan Johari AW Design

We believe that an architect’s signature style should serve more than just being a set of features to identify ‘the architect’. At AW Design, climatic and site response are the essential guides to evolution of our building’s aesthetic language. In case of interiors, it is the purpose, services and available internal volume around which proportions, openings, systems are designed.Given that most of our work is in the hotter regions of the country, we have developed an unsaid affinity towards... Read More ...

Ar. Monish Siripurapu ANT Studio

The nature around us consists of divergent facets that can be aptly fabricated to alter the paradigm of Architecture and Design. Not only is it inspiring in terms of its organic forms but is also helpful in imparting us with a natural know-how of functionality. So, when Ant Studio came into being, I was convinced that we had to create designs that not only celebrated nature but blurred the lines between the built and the un-built. As a result, ‘Biomimicry’ emerged as a style that I wanted to... Read More ...

Ar. (Dr.) Harish Tripathi & ID. Jyoti D Tripathi Architect Harish Tripathi & Associates

Over the years, we have positioned our efforts around the belief that the best objects of nature are simple, not complicated. Consequently, we try to create buildings with simple forms and facades. This is often achieved, in our case, through the case of sunken windows wherein the building is double skinned and neat. This way, unwanted protrusions get negated and the double layer of the façade provides a better response to climatic extremities.We have always been fascinated by the virtues of... Read More ...

Ar. Babu Cherian Babu Cherian Architects

I believe good architecture is one wherein functionality and aesthetics form a harmonious conglomeration in a way that successfully follows the context of the land and its traditions while exuberating its rich culture. With an unceasing love for Kerala and a thirst for reviving the past, I believe my architecture is in essence a contribution to the future through a tribute to the past. While my professional portfolio consists of a mixture of architectural styles, a majority of my projects are... Read More ...
MGS Architecture

Modern Green Structures & Architecture

Modern Green Structures & Architecture
NBM&CW

New Building Material & Construction World

New Building Material & Construction World
L&ST

Lifting & Specialized Transport

Lifting & Specialized Transport
II&TW

Indian Infrastructure & Tenders Week

Indian Infrastructure & Tenders Week