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
A research facility, conference center, and museum dedicated to the theme of peacemaking, the $186 million facility is a public-private partnership that will significantly increase the Institute’s programming and activities. The building is organized around two atria, creating spaces for both scholarly research and public activity. The frame and translucent glass roofs suggest the wings of a dove, the symbol of peace.
The Khalsa Heritage Centre
This museum and cultural center celebrating 500 years of Sikh heritage has been a work in progress for 13 years. At 70,000 square feet, it sits on a 100-acre site situated between the sand cliffs of the holy city of Anandpur Sahib and Punjab, just north of Chandigarh. It houses galleries for changing exhibitions and a two-level research and reference library centered on a grand reading room overlooking water gardens. Its two sandstone towers have upwardly curving roofs covered in stainless steel to provide communal spaces that respond to the needs of celebrating Sikh aspirations and traditions.
Marina Bay Sands
A high-density, $5.5 billion resort opening this month unites a 2,560-room hotel, convention center, shopping and dining, theaters, museum, and casino across the water from Singapore’s Central Business District. The 10-million-square-foot urban district anchors the Singapore waterfront and forms a gateway to the city. The three hotel towers are connected to a vertigo-inducing 2.5-acre sky park, which the firm describes as “an engineering marvel 656 feet above the sea that celebrates the notion of the Garden City–the underpinning of Singapore’s urban design history.”
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.