Search results for "moshe safdie"

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Reading Idaho

Moshe Safdie to design Boise public library
Moshe Safdie is designing a new library for Boise, Idaho.
Yesterday, the Boise City Council approved a three-month contract with Safdie's firm, Safdie Architects, to come up with a concept design for the 150,000-square-foot public library. The building will be sited on the same five-acre parcel as the existing library, a converted 1940s hardware warehouse. The stacks and related programming will take up the bulk of the new structure, but the building will also include roughly 20,000 square feet of public events space and 20,000 square feet for Boise's Arts and History Department. The initial contract, valued at almost $400,000, would cover preliminary designs, which may include proposals for reusing the existing library building. The total budget for the project is around $60 to $70 million, money that would come from fundraising and public financing, the Idaho Statesman reported. “The City of Boise has a clear vision for how the new Boise Library can be a gateway to the city,” said Moshe Safdie, in a city-issued press release. “The building program, the public engagement process, and the site itself, will be the foundation of a design solution unique to Boise, one that reflects its highest aspirations and values as a community.” Safdie is no stranger to the Heartland. His practice designed a public library in Salt Lake City, Utah, a science museum in Wichita, Kansas, and a performing arts center in Kansas City, Missori. If all goes according to plan, Safdie Architects will work with local firm CSHQA on the Boise building, which should be complete in late 2021. There are no designs available at this time.
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Moshe Safdie working on his first hospital, first project in South America
The community is called Serena del Mar, which means Serenity of the Ocean in Spanish. In addition to the hospital, called Centro Hospitalario Serena del Mar, the project will include oceanfront residences, a hotel resort village, a business and commercial district, a golf resort, and an “equestrian village.” Twelve kilometers from the Old City historic district of Cartagena, the planned community is expected to absorb much of the area’s expansion and help the region compete for national and international tourists.     Serena del Mar will be organized around a major canal, similar in scale to the Grand Canal in Venice. The centerpiece is a 400-bed hospital, the first designed by Safdie. The main boulevard is modeled after Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, although cars mostly will be banned to the perimeter of the property. The developer is Novus Civitas, headed by one of the wealthiest families in South America. Safdie’s firm, Safdie Architects, is the architect for the hospital and master planner for the ‘Gran Canal’ civic and institutional district within the larger community, according to principal in charge Sean Scensor. EDSA of Florida is the master planner for the rest of Serena del Mar and landscape architect for the hospital and surrounding area, Scensor said. Robert Trent Jones II is the golf course designer. Other architects that have worked on the hospital include Tsoi/Kobus & Associates of Cambridge, Mass., and a local firm in Colombia, Condiseño Arquitectos. Design and planning experts from Johns Hopkins Medicine International in Baltimore consulted with the development team on the design of the hospital, which will be operated by the Fundación Santa Fe de Bogotá. Construction began last year on the hospital’s first phase. When complete, the building will have a series of fingers extending toward a lagoon, with outdoor “healing gardens’ in between. The rest of Serena del Mar will follow in phases, and the canal is the “big move” that organizes it, Scensor said. In a promotional video for the community, Safdie, 77, indicated that he drew inspiration from the natural setting and the area’s rich architectural traditions. He said he tried to “capture the experience of the Old City of Cartagena” in the context of modern development. “Somehow I feel that my role is to create an architecture that belongs,” he said. “An architecture that belongs is one which makes those who live there, who are part of the place, feel like this is ours."
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Construction wraps up on Moshe Safdie’s Sky Habitat towers in Singapore
Reaching up into the sky in Bishan, Singapore is Moshe Safdie's recently completed development, and aptly named, Sky Habitat. Safdie's design includes walkways that connect the the two structures up to 38 storey's up, offering views across the suburban sprawl of Bishan. Views aren't the only thing offered to residents who take to the bridges at the complex either. As pictured above, a swimming pool spans the majority of the highest bridge (on the 38th floor) complete with palm trees. Below are two more bridges connecting the towers. They provide circulation between the buildings and facilitate airflow through the structures. In fact, ventilation was somewhat of a priority in the context of the Singapore's tropical and climate. As a result, by separating the volumes, Safdie has maximised exposure to each dwelling to combat the humid conditions. That's not to say that they too have been left bereft of vegetation, something which has been a key feature of Safdie's design. The inclusion of such greenery has lead to the bridges being termed as "sky gardens," offering a natural counter to the surrounding urban environment. Bishan, by comparison, is one of Singapore's fastest developing cities. The two volumes of the towers show off a staggered facade that maximizes each dwelling's views and sunlight exposure. Sky Habitat, by name, builds on Safdie's most recognized work, Habitat 67 in Montreal, Canada. Equally hierarchical and arguably more complex, Habitat 67 had its roots in his Master's thesis at McGill University.
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Moshe Safdie’s 64-story luxury condominium tower in Midtown revealed
Moshe Safdie will design a 64 story, 800 foot tall—wait for it—luxury condo complex at 8–16 West 30th Street, between Broadway and Fifth Avenue. The three-story-tall boxy extrusions on the tower's upper stories expand the interior space while shielding the south face from excessive sun exposure. The tower's irregular silhouette strikes a contrast with the subdued base. That podium will be fronted with limestone, a nod to Marble Collegiate Church, the skyscraper's landmarked 19th century neighbor. To round out the ground condition, HM White will design an adjacent plaza on 29th Street. New York–based HFZ Capital is financing the project. Because of Marble Collegiate's protected status, HFZ Capital must wait on the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission to approve plans before construction can begin.
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Moshe Safdie gets AIA Gold and Ehrlich takes home the Firm Award
The American Institutes of Architects has bestowed its most prestigious accolade, the 2015 AIA Gold Medal, to Israeli-born, Canadian-American architect Moshe Safdie. His influential projects—such as The Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem, the Salt Lake City Library, and the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore—have spanned the globe and demonstrated a muscular, yet sensitive style that, embedded with social responsibility, prioritizes the community experience with special attention to the context of a given place and to the public realm. “I think you need to, as an architect, understand the essence of a place and create a building that feels like it resonates with the culture of a place. So my buildings in India or in Kansas City or in Arkansas or in Singapore, they come out different because the places are so different,” Safdie said in a statement. Safdie is guided often by the words of his early mentor, Louis Kahn, who asked, “What does a building want to be?” This question is both specific and overarching for Safdie, leading to different solutions regarding programming and the materiality of a building. Aesthetically, his work brings together different forms—both angular and curvilinear. “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,” wrote Mike Davis, president of Boston Society of Architects, in his nomination letter. Los Angeles–based Ehrlich Architects, founded and led by Steven Ehrlich, has been selected for the AIA Firm Award. The firm’s work, with its California modernist roots, incorporates diverse styles from other cultures and traditions, which is apparent in projects such as the John Roll U.S. Courthouse in Yuma, Arizona, the 700 Palms Residence in Los Angeles, ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism in Phoenix, the Ahmadu Bello University Theater in Zaria, Nigeria, and Federal National Council Parliament Building Complex in Abu Dhabi. “The marriage of the particular with the universal is one of the great virtues of the firm’s design approach, where connections between culture, climate, people and place are woven together in a distinct humanistic architecture shaped by circumstance,” Steve Dumez said in a statement.
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Moshe Safdie
Habitat 67
Timothy Hursley

In November, LA’s Skirball Cultural Center opened the exhibition Global Citizen: The Architecture of Moshe Safdie. The show presents a sprawling survey of the architect’s work, from his early experiments in housing, most famously Habitat 67 in Montreal, to his recent mega-scale projects in Asia. Safdie has been designing the Skirball, meandering its way west of the 405 Freeway in the Cahuenga Pass, over the past 20 years, and its construction was finally completed this fall. Safdie sat down with AN West editor Sam Lubell in one of the center’s sun-filled courtyards to discuss the show, the museum, and the long arc of his career.

Sam Lubell: What I’ve seen through this exhibit, and through seeing your work in general, is a kind of astonishing diversity. How do you keep managing to change things so much and to reinvent your architecture?

Moshe Safdie: I think it happens because I change the kind of project I’m working on, sometimes by circumstance and often by choice. And I change geography. So the context, the program, the type of project, and the place all keep changing. I suppose if I was building all of this in one place, in one country, and I was focusing on a particular building type, like a lot of practices, it wouldn’t happen… I think that it’s the diversity of assignments and places that leads to the diversity that you see in the exhibit. I think it informs me, and it enriches the work.

Marina Bay Sands Hotel.
Timothy Hursley; Courtesy MBS Visual Media

It seems like geometry is something that has very important value in your work. Do you do a lot of formal studies when you’re developing new geometries?

Yes, more and more so for the more complex buildings that we do, like the ArtScience Museum in Singapore. I find that geometry helps you generate schemes, but also to order them, to give them a logic; a structural logic and a construction logic. So often these geometries, like the roof of the United States Institute of Peace, in which the glass roof sort of floats—could not have been built economically if it wasn’t for the fact that eventually we decided to generate it out of a sphere.

With a lot of your work, like here at the Skirball, with the forms and the way that you progress through the space and the landscape, there’s a sense of poetry, and there’s a sense of just letting the elements, and the shadows, really speak for themselves. It seems like that’s different from a lot of architecture now, which is very aggressive and very technology-formed, and less about being a sort of poetic, contemplative space. Can you speak to that?

Well, I think that there are others who are seeking poetics through simplicity. I would mention Zumthor for example. And some of Renzo Piano’s work seeks poetics through simplicity. But I would say that, certainly in the Skirball, and its predecessor in my own mind, the Hebrew Union College, there is an attempt to achieve richness through a great simplicity of form. There’s nothing screaming at you here, it’s just very much about fitting into the land, and light, and shadow, and plant life. And that is why it lends itself to such a rich community life, because people enjoy being in it but they’re not intimidated by it at all. It’s not the big forms that jar, bang bang bang, and then you’re conscious of their presence, and they’re overbearing, and they tell you all the time, “We’re here, take notice.” This building is not about overwhelming anybody.

Hebrew Union College.
Michal Ronnen Safdie

The other thing I noticed is that you have an intuition about landscape and building, which is something that I think is lacking here in California in a lot of cases.

I’ve worked with a lot of gifted landscape architects. I’ve worked with Larry Halprin, Pete Walker. In Israel, Shlomo Aronson. In each case it was a true collaboration. In other words, it’s not that architecture stops and landscape takes over. There’s no such line. I conceive of building and landscape as one. And then the landscape architects and I work together in very much a tango or a dance, it’s like that, you know, because it’s a collaboration, because it’s part of the architecture.

In a lot of the projects in the show there is a focus on urban rooms. I’m wondering how that sort of idea progressed.

The urban room as a concept began when I worked on the Vancouver Library. They said, “We don’t want this to be just a library, but we want to create a place where you can come, have a cup of coffee, you can buy some flowers, you can read the newspaper, you can go into the library, you can get a book, you can bring it out, and it’s open all the time.” So we created an urban room. And then I realized, that’s what most public buildings miss. They have a control point, you pay admission, you go through security, and you’re inside. But what if you could have a kind of in-between zone, which anybody could go in to? And then, if you want to go and see a fancy exhibition, then you go through another control point.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
Timothy Hursley

Another thing that’s common in your work is the use of metaphor and symbolism.

I never talk about it. I never prescribe it. At Yad Vashem [Holocaust History Museum in Jersualem] I never said anything about symbolism. I did say that at the end of the exhibition I wanted to have a reaffirmation that life prevailed, that is true. The arrival building has a lattice, and the light coming in from the skylights is completely striped because of the lattice. So when you’re walking through it’s striped on you. The guides like to tell people that I designed it so that they will feel like they are the prisoners in the camp. And that’s their invention, not mine. I just wanted soft light that sort of dematerializes everything before you go into the museum with its horrible story in there.

It seems like it can be a challenge, like you said, to reinvent your style over the years. But it also seems like a challenge for a project that extends over twenty years—like the Skirball—to keep that fresh as you move along. To keep the same master plan, but somehow keep it feeling of the time. That must be a problem, a challenge.

There were moments, like in the last phase, where I was thinking, “Do I need to really break away in terms of the palette?” But I resisted it, because I thought the most important thing is to make the whole place feel like one whole. And had I done that, it would have been more of a personal obsession than a thing that responds to what the place wants to be. And so in some ways I resisted going to areas that might have interested me at this point in time, but I thought they would be a necessary, kind of, breaking away from the character of the place.

Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles.
Timothy Hursley

So what’s the next phase?

What’s next is we have a lot of work in Asia. Almost all of it. All of it very dense, very large-scale. We won a competition for the new center of the Singapore airport. It connects all the terminals, and it’s got a great garden, and shopping, and other services. It’s an idea that an airport is already almost like a mini city. So you create the kind of center for that. And in Chongqing, which is the biggest city in China, if not the world, we’re doing a 10 million-square-foot mixed-use project.

It’s the new scale of megacities. And we’re also having for the first time an opportunity to build large-scale residential; in Colombo, in China, in Singapore. And many of the ideas of Habitat, and even the studies for Habitat of the future, which are in the exhibition, have been spinning off into these projects.

So it sounds like, in that respect, something that you were working on, you were starting, forty years ago, is now finally happening?

It’s true. In some ways you walk into the office and it looks like we’ve gone back forty years.

That must be exciting, though—something that you may not have thought would ever really materialize.

I never thought it would happen, that’s true. I almost gave up.

How do you adapt that to current conditions?

Just go with it. You adapt the concepts. Of course the densities are greater, and mixed-use is part of the formula. And their ideas of industrialization are no longer synonymous with prefabrication. The emphasis is to achieve an optimization of mixed-uses, placing offices and commercial space at the lower levels, giving housing the advantage of air, light, and view above. It also, given the constraints of density, puts an emphasis on providing community open-garden spaces within different levels of the development in addition to the private gardens provided to some of the residential units.

United States Institute of Peace.
Timothy Hursley

These won’t be prefabricated?

I think they’ll be industrialized, but whether they’re prefabricated as panels or boxes is a moot question at this point. It’s more, how do you assemble manufactured components? And I’m not sure that means three-dimensional components. That’s what we’re exploring right now, trying to understand, because there are so many new production techniques.

After the success of Habitat the expectations on you must have been higher than any architect ever. Has that been difficult to manage over the years?

It’s been difficult to manage. I used to get irritated by the prefix “best known for Habitat 67” forty years after the fact. But there’s less of it now, I guess.

People talk about balancing popular appeal with critical appeal. Is that something that you think about when you’re designing?

I don’t think about it. I become aware of it after, that the public, what the public loves, usually the critics tend to hate. And I know I’ve spent a lot of time wondering why that is so. But it’s not something that I think about when I’m designing. I’m just doing my thing. I’m not thinking of the public or the critics when I’m designing.

Well, it seems the thing that really drives you the most is the ability to change how people live, change cities.

It’s what gives you satisfaction, that’s for sure... If you go through the exhibition, about half of what’s exhibited is unbuilt. But I definitely think I’ve had extraordinary opportunities. And they continue to come. And even though there are many disappointments of things you don’t build—I think that would be totally frustrating if that happened all the time. You can lose some things that you have a lot of affection for when you have an opportunity to realize others.

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Moshe Safdie & Associates
Marina Bay Sands
Tim Hursley

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.

William Menking

United States Institute of Peace Headquarters

Washington, D.C.

United States Institute of Peace

United States Institute of Peace   United States Institute of Peace
Tim Hursley
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

Punjab, India

Khalsa Heritage Centre

Khalsa Heritage Centre   Khalsa Heritage Center   Khalsa Heritage Center
Ram Rahman
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


Marina Bay Sands

Marina Bay Sands   Marina Bay Sands   Marina Bay Sands
Tim Hursley
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

Bentonville, Arkansas

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

John Horner

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.

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Citizen Safdie
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas.
Timothy Hursley

Global Citizen: The Architecture of Moshe Safdie
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art
600 Museum Way, Bentonville, Arkansas
Through September 2

Moshe Safdie seems to be reflecting on his long career these days as well as the more general evolutions in the discipline and practice of architecture over the last five decades. An exhibition of his work entitled Global Citizen: The Architecture of Moshe Safdie is currently at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. Curated by Donald Albrecht, it is the third and final venue after touring two other Safdie-designed projects: the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa and the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. In conjunction with the exhibition, Safdie spent the day of June 25th at Crystal Bridges giving an informal talk in the morning in the museum’s glazed restaurant, a gallery tour in the afternoon that included the Global Citizen exhibition, and a more formal and comprehensive illustrated lecture in the evening in the museum’s Great Hall that is a sort of glazed peninsula projecting into the water.

The roughly two-dozen projects exhibited in Global Citizen are of varied sizes, types, and scales. While generally global in their geographical distribution, they are located primarily in North America, Jerusalem, and Asia. The work is divided into five sections that are dispersed throughout the building. Projects are organized by place and theme rather than chronologically, and visitors discover the exhibition little by little among the works of the permanent collection. Though somewhat unorthodox as an itinerary it is unlikely that any part of the exhibition will be missed since there is virtually a single, prescribed path through the galleries of Crystal Bridges.

Marina Bay Sands (left). Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum (right).
Timothy Hursley

While Safdie believes that architecture is a social art rather than a personal expression, Global Citizen is a personal story that goes back to the architect’s undergraduate thesis project completed at McGill University in 1961. The student design, represented by a model from the period, is a structural frame holding prefabricated living units. It is an obvious precursor for Habitat 67 in Montreal, which itself appears to be a precursor for much of the work Safdie is proposing and producing today for extremely dense urban conditions in Asia and elsewhere. For the most part, the early work exhibited has not been redrawn or repackaged. It is interesting to see other, slightly later versions of Habitat commissioned for New York, Puerto Rico, and Jerusalem but never realized. It is equally interesting to be reminded that Safdie placed second in the competition for the Centre Pompidou in Paris and to see how drastically the deliverables for an architectural competition have changed since 1971. Safdie was born in 1938 and was only in his mid-20s when he opened his own office to begin work on Habitat 67. He was not quite thirty when the iconic project was completed. These early projects grouped under a heading of “The Shape of Things to Come” suggest that many of Safdie’s convictions related to civic space, density, mixed use, aerial streets, sky parks, etc., were developed early on. Safdie insists on the importance of the client in the making of any good project. He pointed out that in his early career commissions often came from enlightened institutions and that Habitat 67, for example, was an ambitious joint venture of different levels of government. Later projects in Jerusalem, such as the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum completed in 2005, are presented as a second phase in Safdie’s career. They are extraordinary, symbolically charged commissions and exercises in design that should resonate with place and purpose. While Safdie continues to work for institutions, many of his clients are now private developers. He noted as a matter of fact that architects have little say in urban regulatory mechanisms today and that in many parts of the globe urban planning is synonymous with “the market knows best.” In this context, architects struggle with the often-conflicting objectives of the market and notions of public good. While accepting the challenge of these contradictions, Safdie seeks clients who, nevertheless, want to create something of significance, program types that he has not previously had a chance to explore, and projects that have a strong probability of actually being built.

Habitat of the Future.
Courtesy Moshe Safdie Architects

Prior to opening his own practice, Moshe Safdie worked in the office of Louis Kahn. There he was influenced by the elder architect’s drawing style, using charcoal and colored pencils. Over fifty of Safdie’s compelling sketches and sketchbooks are exhibited throughout Global Citizen. Safdie was also influenced by Kahn’s hands-on design approach as well as his synthesis of form and structure. It was in Kahn’s office that Safdie met the engineer August Komendant who later developed the structural design for Habitat 67. (For Kahn, Komendant was the structural engineer for the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth among other projects.) At Crystal Bridges, Buro Happold developed the rich structural solutions for the curved roofs of the pavilions that were inspired by suspension bridges. Safdie says that while little has changed in regard to materials such as concrete, wood, and steel over the last 50 years, significant advances have been made in glass technology, which makes it an appealing material choice for him. At the same time he noted that architectural projects have become more and more complex to realize, and architects often find themselves in a position similar to that of a composer or a conductor.

While it does not exemplify the mega density that Safdie sees as a major characteristic of our time, Crystal Bridges is an example of many of his architectural preoccupations. For Safdie, water, landscape, and transparency are a magical combination. The more rural design in Arkansas is driven by its immediate context, and the building sits comfortably in the landscape. Its gallery spaces, however, appear to be derived from the outside-in and are a less convincing solution. The structure works well again at the level of material choice and details. Safdie’s work in general seems to be somewhat out of step with current tendencies, and in one section of the exhibition he is portrayed as an “outcast.” Arriving in Bentonville via northeastern Oklahoma and Bartlesville, the project can be seen as a sort of “outsider architecture” more akin to that of Bruce Goff.

Habitat '67, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Timothy Hursley

Global Citizen as presented at Crystal Bridges ends with the Marina Bay Sands (2011), a waterfront project in Singapore that is composed of mixed-use facilities at ground level and three 55-story towers that are connected and capped by a linear, three-acre sky-park at the very top of the ensemble. Even friendly audience members at the evening lecture gasped when an image appeared on the screen of the sky-park swimming pool spanning between two of the towers hundreds of feet above the ground. The response was the same for a similar but even larger project still on the boards for Chongqing, China. Such solutions could be considered willful architectural gestures. They are informed, however, by “Habitat of the Future” (2010), a rethinking of Habitat 67 that developed strategies to update the earlier project to make it more efficient, denser, and more affordable. While verging on the extreme, in Safdie’s view such solutions are ethical responses to questions of mega-scale and community. They integrate “urban windows,” for example, in the form of large openings between buildings to connect various parts of the city or to connect the city to natural amenities. Mixed use and multi-level cities are key concepts, and the garden becomes the symbol of wellbeing in very dense environments. After half a century of practice, Safdie believes that architecture must be fit for its purpose—where fitness should be understood in a more evolutionary and Darwinian sense. For Safdie it is not only the task of the architect to imagine new possibilities, but also a duty to consider what is appropriate.

The exhibition at Crystal Bridges presents the architect’s work for the general public through models, photographs, sketches, films, and some drawings. Architects would inevitably like to see more drawings and details, however, to better understand the breadth of the work and of Safdie’s career. Without them, it was informing and a definite advantage to walk through Global Citizen with Moshe Safdie.

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Q+A> Oren Safdie’s “False Solution” Debuts In Santa Monica
For those architects with an interest in theater, Wednesday was the West Coast premiere of Oren Safdie's newest play, False Solution, at the Santa Monica Playhouse (tickets may be purchased here). Safdie earned an M.Arch at Columbia University and is the son of architect Moshe Safdie. He has now written three plays inspired by contemporary architecture, including The Bilbao Effect and Private Jokes, Public Spaces. False Solution, which also played in New York last summer, follows Anton Seligman, a successful architect whose latest commission, a new Holocaust museum in Poland, is aggressively challenged by one of his new interns, Linda Johansson. She also confronts his beliefs in himself, his career, his profession, and much more. On May 1, AN will host a panel discussion at the Santa Monica Playhouse moderated by West Coast Editor Sam Lubell. Panelists include Safdie, the show's stars Daniel J. Travanti and Amanda Saunders, and architects Craig Hodgetts and Hagy Belzberg. False Solution  runs through May 11. Last week Lubell sat down with Safdie to discuss the play, its challenges, and the arc of his career. Read the interview below. Sam Lubell: I was talking to one of the actors about how False Solution really has an impact on many levels and holds together well. One thing I noticed was that there are a lot of specifics that come up, and I’m wondering, did you have any real life inspirations for any of these characters or situations? Oren Safdie: It’s an amalgamation in some ways, but obviously there are references that are made that I think more people in the architecture community will get. Not necessary the characters as much as the building referenced in the play. It derives from two different philosophies in two different Holocaust museums that I used as my model—one based on the Jewish Museum by Daniel Libeskind in Berlin and one on my father’s Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. I always noted that they took completely opposite approaches. One being the extreme—trying to express as much as one can in a building about the Holocaust—versus the opposite approach that pretty much eliminates any architectural expression and tries to void the building and allow the exhibit to stand by itself. I try to let these two philosophies bleed into the characters and then create tension between them. It’s not just a subtle allusion. Each one of those is clearly represented. Yes, definitely. You can’t forge the reality. But in terms of the characters, they are parts of different characters. This architect is not based on Libeskind and the young female student is not based on my father. They are just the characters and you just infuse those philosophies into their characters. In many ways it's interesting that the struggles to design a museum reflect the struggles in these characters. Being in the architecture world I don’t often get to see a side of architecture that reflects inner turmoil or inner struggles, so I think that is a very powerful technique. I think where I started from, more than focusing on a Holocaust museum, was focusing on an architect who is at the pinnacle of his career and who is adored by the public and by the press. Yet something within him has doubts—debating if he’s a fraud or not. What would it take for somebody to prick that balloon and let all the air come out? A young, attractive, intelligent first year architecture student certainly is capable of that. Which brings up another interesting aspect of your work: You’re not afraid to pull punches. You’re willing to criticize the profession of architecture. Well I think I’m in a position to do that because I won’t lose any jobs if I do. I think having a foot in architecture and being in architecture school gave me an in-depth knowledge. I never really practiced, but I can sort of do things and not really worry about that. Not to say that people don’t get upset, but for the most part I think people have responded well. But sometimes you read some architecture critics and they can be equal to those theater critics that bring out the knives. Certainly there was a very direct criticism of Libeskind and the sense of making people queasy with architecture. I don’t know that’s the way you feel about it but it was a very specific critique. I don’t know if it was a critique? I put it out there and maybe you see it like that and other people may see that. Hopefully I didn’t make a judgment on it. I think you mentioned once that Frank Gehry was mad at you for a little bit. Well I don’t receive personal phone calls from him, but I heard through the grapevine that he did not like the fact that I used the Bilbao Effect for the title of one of my plays. It was a fictitious look at the Brooklyn shipyard project, but was set in Staten Island. Really it was high satire. It was a court case involving a member of the public who was bringing a lawsuit against the architect because he blamed his wife’s suicide on the architect. It was always a far-fetched scenario. After architecture school, what made you decide to veer off into playwriting? It was pretty instantaneous. In my last semester in architecture school I took a playwriting course, because Columbia encouraged us to take a course outside of Architecture and Art History. I wrote a 10-minute scene based on my experience of juries in architecture school, which became my first architecture play, Private Jokes, Public Places. I guess while other people were really focusing on buildings I was just amazed at the drama that took place during student pin-ups. I didn’t turn back after that. You're not afraid to get technical. Being in this arena and not being an architect, I appreciate that you obviously know the talk. But it’s not to the point that laypeople can’t understand it. Right. If the story doesn’t have an inner tension—in False Solution it’s about this older man and younger woman—then I think you lose them as well. I remember going to see Tom Stoppard, a British playwright, who wrote the Invention of Love. It was all references to something I did not understand. In fact, I probably only understood 50 percent of the play. Yet that play has stayed with me, because the moments in between all the dialogue that I could understand were very heart wrenching and memorable. So I see the technical stuff as background music, and every so often the story is punching through and you’re following that. Obviously the emotions and human drama are the things that hit you the hardest. Hopefully. You do have to follow and you do have to work for it. Its not the kind of play that you’re going to come in and sit back and relax. You have to stay alert and follow these things. It’s a workout for the brain. I have to mention the fact that your father is a very famous architect. Is that something that you struggle with? A pressure to be compared to your father? Well it’s a double-edged sword really, because I sometimes I feel that it’s given me a foot in. Some people might say. "Oh, well I’ll go see this because he’s the son of... maybe there would be something interesting." It’s also worked against me in some ways in which people dismiss me and say, "Well the only reason he’s gotten there is because..." I think getting away from architecture or being a practitioner was probably a healthy thing for me to do. Theater is a world quite far away from architecture, and yet these plays are a way to participate in the debate.
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Oren Safdie’s New Play, “False Solution,” To Debut on June 16th
  False Solution, the final play in Oren Safdie's trilogy (Private Jokes, Public Spaces and The Bilbao Effect) on contemporary architecture is finally set to take the stage on June 13th in New York City. The play will be followed by an official press opening on June 16th at the off-Broadway experimental theatre, La MaMa ETC in Manhattan. Oren Safdie, son of internationally esteemed architect Moshe Safdie, is a Canadian-American-Israeli playwright with a strong background in both architecture and fictional writing (he graduated with a Master’s in both subjects from Columbia University). Even after having turned to a career in writing it was clear that architecture would remain flowing through Oren’s blood. Both of Safdie’s earlier works Private Jokes, Public Spaces and The Bilbao Effect enjoyed great success off-Broadway and received positive acclaim from play-goers and the press. His latest work False Solution tells the impassioned story of a German-Jewish architect who is tasked with the job of designing a new Holocaust museum in Poland. His clear vision for the new institution quickly unfurls as he spends an exhilarating night with his bold and striking intern, a first-year architecture student, who exposes him to a whirlwind of ideas and drives him to entirely rethink his design approach. As a result of their intimate night together the architect finds himself questioning everything he stands for and is inevitably forced to reflect on the roles that religious identity, sexual politics, and the effects of war play in the creative process.
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Safdie’s Unfinished Business
Moshe Safdie's partially completed West Edge in Kansas City.
Courtesy Safdie Architects

In a dramatic turn of events, opposition to the construction of a new office tower in the Country Club Plaza district of Kansas City, Missouri faded for good in August, when law firm Polsinelli Shughart chose the site of the unfinished West Edge development designed by Moshe Safdie for its new headquarters. After months of battling over another site on the Plaza, Polsinelli announced that the office portion of the project, an unfinished structure that was originally designed to suit advertising agency Bernstein-Rein, will be demolished and replaced with a new office tower. Selective demolition of the structure began September 26. Safdie Architects declined to comment for this story.

In a statement, Kansas City Mayor Sly James said, “The West Edge location helps to replace an abandoned project, eliminates the controversy of the site on the Plaza, and retains a valuable corporation and its employees in Kansas City."

The Safdie-designed hotel and garage will remain.

The Safdie structure currently being demolished is the skeleton of what was planned to be a nine-story, 203,000-square-foot building, part of an $80 million mixed-use project. The 134-room hotel and the 940-car six-level underground garage, which along with other infrastructure improvements around the 2.4-acre site was funded by $32 million in Tax Increment Financing, will remain. Local firm 360 Architecture will design the new structure for Caymus Real Estate, which took over the project last February. The cost to both dismantle the existing building to save the underground parking and to rebuild the new structure is $80 million. Dave Harrison, President of Caymus Real Estate, said, “Polisnelli approached us with 360 Architecture in tow and offered up our most probable scenario to advance the project.”

The saga surrounding the site goes back nearly a decade when current owner Cecil Van Tuyl proposed a redevelopment that was ultimately rejected due to public opposition. After the West Edge development under new owner Trilogy Development was approved five years ago following an extensive community planning process, Trilogy filed for bankruptcy in 2009 as construction was nearing completion. At an auction in 2010, Cecil Van Tuyl with partner B.B. Andersen bought the project for $9.5 million. Last February, Van Tuyl was sued by his now former partner Andersen under claims that he violated their original contract. It is unclear how this lawsuit will affect the overall project.

The design for the new office tower.
Courtesy 360 Architecture

The new building will be a nine-story, 250,000-square-foot steel structure with standard floor plates. The Class A office tower will fit into the site in much the same way as the previous building, with 22,000 square feet of retail along the north and east ground floors, but a second story patio above the retail on the east and a new plaza at the northwest corner will be added. Bill Johnson, principal at 360, said, “The geometry is based on the structure we were given, and by shifting the building to create public spaces at the corners and edges it produces a great addition to the feel of the Plaza.”

The new office tower is expected to open in the fourth quarter of 2013. At this point, Kansas City is hoping that this long battle comes to a close.

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Safdie’s Shells
Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, MO.
Timothy Hursley

On September 16, the Safdie-designed Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts (KCPA), a 285,000-square-foot, $326 million complex that will be the home of the Kansas City Symphony, Lyric Opera, and Kansas City Ballet had its grand opening performance by world-renowned tenor Placido Domingo in the 1,800-seat Muriel Kauffman Theatre. On September 17, the opening festivities continued with violinist Itzhak Perlman in the 1,600-seat Helzberg Hall.

Top-flight performers signal the ambitions for the project and for the city as a whole. Originally conceived as three separate halls for each performance ensemble, the project reverted to two spaces due to budgetary constraints. Nonetheless, the two large shells mark the important debut of the Symphony in Helzberg Hall and the Opera and Ballet in the Muriel Kauffman Theatre. A cable stayed grand foyer and lobby enclosed by etched glass connect the Hall and Theatre with a grand terrace facing south towards the emerging Crossroads Arts District. Moshe Safdie of Safdie Architects explained, “We wanted to reverse the assumption that the lobby should be facing north towards downtown. The site almost demanded it.”

Left to right: The Kauffman Center backs up to a new park built over underground parking; the cable-stayed glass foyer is a vast new public gathering place; inside the theater space.

Central Avenue dead-ends at the KCPA exactly where the space between the two performance halls creates the cavernous north entrance. This dramatic back end serves as the gateway for the Bartle Hall Convention Center and the rest of the downtown central business district.

In 2002, Julia Kauffman, daughter of Ewing Kauffman of the Kauffman Foundation and Marion Laboratories, began courting Safdie and eventually asked him to visit the site of the future cultural center. Said Safdie, “It was a relationship that cemented itself.”

Since construction began in 2006, the communities around the KCPA have been getting ready with new shops, restaurants, and infrastructure. To increase pedestrian access from downtown, the Missouri Department of Transportation allocated $4.9 million to completely reconstruct the Broadway Bridge across Interstate 670. Directly adjacent to the KCPA, a Kansas City-funded $47 million 1,000-car underground parking garage has also been built. Jan Marcason, 4th District Kansas City Councilwoman, explained, “The Center was a catalyst for the City to make many improvements and connections to surrounding neighborhoods.”

Set at the foreground of the downtown Kansas City skyline, the KCPA plays a supporting role with its taller neighbors. Its sloping curves emerging from a hilltop vantage-point both embrace and accentuate Downtown Kansas City. “Its location shifts the center of the upper and lower city,” Safdie said. Downtown Kansas City sits atop the bluffs at the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas Rivers.

Marcason said, “This has brought worldwide attention to Kansas City as a center for arts, and we have used it as a focal point to showcase our many cultural institutions.”