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Moshe Safdie, founder of Safdie Architects is an architect, urban planner, educator, theorist, and author. Embracing a comprehensive and humane design philosophy, Safdie is committed to architecture that supports and enhances a project’s program; that is informed by the geographic, social, and cultural elements that define a place; and that responds to human needs and aspirations. Safdie has completed a wide range of projects, such as 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.
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 apprenticing with Louis I. Kahn in Philadelphia, Safdie returned to Montreal to oversee the master plan for the 1967 World Exhibition. In 1964 he established his own firm to realize Habitat ‘67, an adaptation of his thesis at McGill, which was the central feature of the World’s Fair and a groundbreaking design in the history of architecture.
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, 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.
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.
Safdie has been featured in several films, including Moshe Safdie, The Power of Architecture, which is a portrait film (directed by Donald Winkler, 2004), My Architect: A Son’s Journey about Nathaniel Kahn and his father Louis I. Khan (directed by Nathaniel Kahn, 2003), and The Sound of the Carceri, about Bach and Piranesi, with Yo-Yo Ma (directed by Francois Girard, 1997).
Safdie 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.