There is no shortage of drama in architecture. In a constellation of anticipation and suspense, developing design projects—particularly large works planned for the public realm—are keenly followed and critiqued, both eruditely by architecture's opining class of professional critics and casually by the hoi polloi. Buildings then emerge unashamedly in full public view, like weary exhibitionists whose once dare-devilish exploits have long since become a dull routine. And occasionally, even the destruction of architecture signals a kind of performance. While the recent tragedy at Notre Dame was not quite what Hugo had in mind, that conflagration's rapid dissemination through print and digital media underscores the 19th-century novelist's insistence on architecture as an endangered—yet formidable—protagonist. This histrionic capacity of architecture unsurprisingly extends to—or perhaps emanates from—the academy. In a fashion of education quite unlike most others, students of architecture are constantly engaged in a highly choreographed presentation of their work, resulting in a highly public (and sometimes traumatizing) cycle of humiliation and praise. The dramatics that unfold in the architectural academy are well known to playwright Oren Safdie, who, before embarking on a writing career that has spanned nearly three decades, earned a master’s degree at Columbia's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. And while pursuing these studies may have initially been an endeavor to maintain ties with the family business (the playwright's father is Moshe Safdie), Oren's experiences in architecture school clearly impacted his writing. Indeed, one of Safdie's earliest plays, Private Jokes, Public Places, detailed a young architecture student's final presentation which, thanks to the presence of some big and obnoxious egos on the jury, spiraled horrendously out of control (staging the play has become a kind of annual tradition at architecture schools around the world). Some years later, in The Bilbao Effect, Safdie's satirical pen revisited architecture, this time with a decidedly more macabre stroke. In Bilbao, we see the fallout that occurs when the play's starchitect-protagonist, Erhardt Shlaminger, is blamed by a Staten Island resident for the death of his wife, who—unable to reconcile herself with the formal qualities of a new Schlaminger tower in her bailiwick—is driven to suicide. Safdie's latest project, Color Blind, returns once again to architecture and its potential for drama and (perhaps unwanted) spectacle, but this time in the context of race. The play, which was debuted in a read-through at the University at Buffalo, is a fictionalized account of the jury deliberations surrounding the selection of an architect for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C., Designed by David Adjaye, the NMAAHC was completed in 2016. Color Blind, on the other hand, is very much a work in progress. Nevertheless, the early drafts are further evidence of Safdie's acute awareness of the tensions and contradictions that underlie architectural culture and production, and the ability of these to yield highly theatrical—and sometimes excruciatingly uncomfortable—moments. The play invites its audience into the usually sealed-off space where critical decisions about architecture are made. There, we are introduced to six fictional jurors who will decide the shape of the first institution dedicated to African-American history on Washington's National Mall. This motley crew is composed of a diverse set of players whose exchanges hover between guarded diplomacy, heartfelt confessions, and downright acrimony. The imagined jury includes the future museum director and his assistant, both of whom are black. The former is the staid elder statesman, the latter, a fiery and plainspoken woman who speaks her mind. Also present is the museum's Korean-American treasurer, who is meek and wise. Rounding out the committee is a highly neurotic community organizer (Jewish), as well as a pedantic architecture critic, and a folksy but established starchitect (both of whom are white). The racial and ethnic backgrounds of the characters are worth noting because they foreground the competing experiences and prejudices that contextualize each juror's vision for the museum. In this sense, Color Blind is aligned with Private Jokes, Public Spaces, and The Bilbao Effect; all three recognize architecture as not just a silent protagonist, but as a dramatic vehicle for exposing broader contradictions and conflicts embedded in architecture—some, occasionally, not too deep below the surface. Color Blind relies heavily on popular stereotypes about race and ethnicity—and the conflicts these imply—to drive its plot forward. As such, scattered throughout the jury's deliberations over the six finalist museum proposals are somewhat formulaic monologues: an emotional harangue on the experience of being a single mother on welfare (black assistant to the director); a frenzied, confessional tirade riddled with liberal guilt (Jewish community organizer); and a demure complaint—in broken English—about the perils of over-achievement (Korean-American treasurer). These cliches render Color Blind's dramatic trajectory for the most part predictable, and Safdie's later drafts would certainly be helped by the addition of nuance and moments of surprise. Still, the play's overall agenda deserves our attention. In a profession that maintains a track record on inclusivity that is shameful—about 2 percent of registered architects in the U.S. are black—and in a nation where xenophobic and racist hostility in both discourse and action appear at alarming levels, the play's vision is both timely and telling. With Color Blind, Safdie's desire to lift the veil that renders the process of architectural production bewildering to outsiders, and his portrait of the conflicts that lie just beneath the veil's surface could, in the end, do more than give credence to the dramatic possibilities latent in architecture. When finished, the new play has the potential to instigate a critical dialogue about uncomfortable issues that extend far beyond architecture but are undeniably relevant to the field. Mustafa Faruki was the 2018-2019 Peter Reyner Banham Fellow at the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning. He is the founder of theLab-lab for architecture. Color Blind was presented by undergraduate students at the school in a live reading. The event was followed by an informal discussion with Safdie and was held in connection with The Whiteness of American Architecture, a day-long symposium examining the racial discourses underlying "American Architecture" movements from independence up to the first decades of the 20th century. Color Blind has been selected as a finalist in the Kernodle Playwriting Competition at the University of Arkansas and will be presented again in a staged reading by the Architecture Foundation in London this fall.
Posts tagged with "Moshe Safdie":
Moshe Safdie has won the 2019 Wolf Prize for Architecture, an award given out about every three years by the Wolf Foundation. The Israeli nonprofit gives out six prizes annually for agriculture, arts, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, and physics. The arts award recognizes a winner in either painting, music, sculpture, or architecture. Recent winners for architecture include Phyllis Lambert, Eduardo Souto de Moura, David Chipperfield, and Peter Eisenman. The award citation praised Safdie's "career motivated by the social concerns of architecture and formal experimentation," and recognized Montreal's Habitat '67 along with "the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, the Harvard Rosovsky Hall in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Exploration Place in Wichita, Kansas, the National Library of Israel and the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem." Much of the Safdie Architects' current work comprises large-scale residential towers that formally echo Habitat's modularity on a much larger scale. Winners of Wolf Prizes receive $100,000.
Moshe Safdie, the global architect behind iconic projects such as the Habitat 67 prefabricated housing complex in Montreal and many others, will be giving a keynote presentation at the 2019 Modernism Week symposium in Palm Springs, California. Safdie’s over-50-year-long career began at the age of 26 when he was commissioned to build a version of a McGill University thesis project in Montreal. Built in conjunction with the city’s Expo 67 world's fair, the 146-unit garden apartment complex envisioned a way of melding suburban and urban housing typologies that catapulted the architect onto the world stage. Safdie Architects has realized over 75 buildings in the years since, including the Marina Bay Sands resort in Singapore that is made up of three 55-story towers topped by a massive elevated park. Safdie is also responsible for Sky Habitat Singapore, a dramatic 590-unit condominium complex organized as a pair of stepped and interlinked towers studded with projecting balconies. Safdie’s office is set to complete three key projects this year, including the Jewel Changi Airport in Singapore, the Altair Residences in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and the massive mixed-use project Raffles City Chongqing in Chongqing, China. For the latter project, the architect has designed a series of six tapered towers that rise up to 1,450 feet in height and are connected by a 1/4-mile-long conservatory raised more than 800 feet off the ground. Safdie’s keynote lecture in Palm Springs is scheduled for February 16 at the Annenberg Theater in the Palm Springs Art Museum. For more information on the lecture, see the event page here.
Only a few days after BIG’s snaking Serpentine Pavilion was fully installed in Toronto, King Street West, the stacked housing development sited directly behind the pavilion, received official approval and is set to begin sales shortly. The full-block King Street West, developed by BIG’s frequent Canadian collaborators Westbank (also the owner of the aforementioned pavilion), was reportedly inspired in both form and spirit by Moshe Safdie’s experimental Habitat 67 in Montreal. Similar to the adjacent pavilion, the 750,000-square-foot project will rise in stepped, stacked boxes and invoke a pixelated effect—an effect that extends even to the cladding, thanks to the glass bricks that will be used for the facade. Each concrete cube has been extruded and set back to terrace space and open up lighting for residents, as well as give each unit its own unique identity. Much like Habitat 67 or BIG’s own “self-contained neighborhood," the 8 House in Copenhagen, the aim was to lend each unit the feeling of being its own standalone home. "With King Street West, we wanted to find an alternative to the tower and podium you see a lot of in Toronto and revisit some of Safdie's revolutionary ideas,” said Bjarke Ingels in a press release, “but rather than a utopian experiment on an island, have it nested into the heart of the city. It would be strange if one of the most diverse cities in the world had the most homogenous architecture." King Street West will incorporate the site’s existing century-old brick buildings and convert them into a mix of office and retail space. The peaks-and-valleys approach BIG took to the development’s massing extends to the underside, as the building rises like the entrance to a cavern at the bottom, opening up to what BIG has described as a “maze-like” courtyard within. The “mountainous” portions of the project will frame the interior landscaping at ground-level, which comes courtesy of the Toronto-based landscape architects Public Work. The project had been under consideration by the Toronto city government for the last two-and-a-half years, as the King West neighborhood is the meeting point of Toronto’s downtown skyscrapers and shorter brick buildings. Several converted factories and warehouses sit on the same block as King Street West, and the development was approved only after BIG was able to scale its “village” down to a contextual size. No estimated completion date for King Street West has been announced yet.
New Yorkers can catch a glimpse of a parallel universe this summer. LinkNYC, the Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications, AN contributor Sam Lubell, writer Greg Goldin, and publisher Metropolis Books have teamed up to bring images from Never Built New York to the city' streets via LinkNYC kiosks. The display of unbuilt megaprojects from some of the biggest names in architecture follows the release of the Never Built New York book in 2016, and the accompanying show at the Queens Museum last fall. The kiosks won't display the full array of weird and wild never-realized projects, but the curated images will still depict how New York could have grown into a very different city. Some of the work on display includes I.M. Pei’s proposal for the Hyperboloid, a 102-story tower proposed in 1954 that would have replaced Grand Central, and Robert Moses’s heavily contested Mid-Manhattan Expressway. Images of the Dodger Dome, an enclosed stadium designed by Buckminster Fuller meant to keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn, and Moshe Safdie’s tessellating Habitat New York (originally slated for the Upper East Side) have also been selected. LinkNYC will display images of each project on kiosks close to the location where they would have risen. LinkNYC’s 1,650 kiosks can be found all over the city following the program’s launch in 2016. The Never Built New York 'exhibition' follows a June show that presented historical New York City photos from the Museum of the City of New York’s ongoing Through a Different Lens: Stanley Kubrick Photographs exhibition.
https://vimeo.com/270657493 The Time Space Existence exhibition presented by the European Cultural Center has returned to the Venice Biennale for the fourth time. For this iteration, the European Cultural Center worked with PLANE—SITE, the GAA Foundation and the ECC to launch a new series of videos spotlighting some of the pavilion’s most prominent participating architects. In the final video of the series, French architect Odile Decq frankly discusses her willingness to not be “nice,” the importance of taking a position, and being a woman in a still male-dominated field. In the brief video, Decq lays out her fascination with speed—and how that manifests in her architecture. “You can build a story with your movement, your displacement into the space,” she says of her design approach. This, according to Decq, lends a “spice” to her spaces. “I’m sure my buildings are spicy. They are not convenient for everybody.” Not just antagonistic for antagonism’s stake, she discusses how she encourages her students to take a position and the hope she has for younger generations to reinvent the world. After all, “architecture is still a fight.” This video is the last in a series that has featured the likes of Moshe Safdie, Tatiana Bilbao, and Fumihiko Maki. At Time Space Existence in Venice, Decq presented an installation and exhibition with an interactive centerpiece. The exhibition offered a sneak peek of her first large-scale residential development and first building in Barcelona, called Antares. She was also front and center in a women-led public action on May 25th at the Biennale that called for more gender equity in the field.
The Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has released the first batch of renderings for its latest Manhattan project, a 60-story office tower set to touch down in NoMad. As first reported by New York YIMBY, “29th & 5th” will rise from the site of the former historic Bancroft Bank Building, replacing an 800-foot-tall luxury condo tower designed by Moshe Safdie. As seen in the renderings, the building at 3 West 29th Street will consist of two slender, linked rectangular masses with a glass curtain wall. Differentiating each volume will be the width of the windows, with the curtain wall of the eastern half holding much wider windows than its western counterpart. One of the project’s more interesting features is the “spine” of cantilevering concrete terraces running up the tower’s eastern side, which will give each floor access to outdoor space. According to the project’s EB-5 materials–a program designed to lure foreign investment in the building in exchange for a potential green card–the tower is being designed with a heavy emphasis on wellness. “The building will incorporate a LEED-Certified design and highly amenitized offering package promoting employee connectivity, communal workspaces, and fitness options that will pioneer a new frontier of wellness and sustainability within the workplace. The building is designed with smaller 13,400-square-foot floor plates that will attract an underserved market while leaving ample lot area to design a vibrant park surrounding the building.” While permits filed with NYC’s Department of Buildings show that the project was submitted as a 34-story, 300,000-square-foot tower, YIMBY is reporting that the original application was used to begin foundation work ahead of a final plan reveal. This set of new renderings paints a picture of a tower that’s at least 60 stories tall, with a possible height of 800-to-850 feet and up to 600,000 square feet of floor space. The skyscraper’s massive heft has been made possible by developer HFZ Capital’s agglomeration of air rights from throughout the neighborhood. No completion date has been given for 29th & 5th at the time of writing.
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.
This is an excerpt from a forthcoming book, Space Settlements, about the architectural, historical, social, and science-fictional contexts surrounding NASA’s efforts to design large-scale human habitats in orbit during the 1970s. Space Settlements will be published by Columbia Books on Architecture and the City in fall 2018. In 1975, Big Science and the counterculture teamed up with two illustrators to design the cities of the future. But, unlike the communes and megastructures that we’re familiar with from the speculative architecture of that era, these would not be located on Earth. Stewart Brand, the publisher of the Whole Earth Catalog, and engineers at the NASA Ames Research Center both supported a project—first proposed by Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill—to build huge habitats in orbit that would house millions of people. At a Summer Study conference in what was even then known as Silicon Valley, NASA and O’Neill hired painters Don Davis and Rick Guidice to create renderings of these new worlds. Most previous plans for space stations had consisted of a disconnected series of capsules or chambers. The Summer Study habitats were large enough that they were effectively new ground surfaces, spun for artificial gravity, on which any kind of city or landscape could be constructed. NASA’s team architect Patrick Hill—of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo—specified that, in order to achieve maximum efficiency and space-saving, the buildings inside should be made from systems of prefabricated parts that could be assembled quickly, offering variety and adaptability. Beyond these constraints, the two illustrators had broad latitude to design the architecture that would be shown in the renderings. Both drew on their unique combinations of backgrounds to offer their own interpretation of the future of space occupation. Davis was originally an illustrator for planetary scientists like Carl Sagan, and had also worked on book covers for science fiction novels like Larry Niven’s Ringworld of 1970, depicting a habitat design concept not unlike the “Stanford Torus” sketched by O’Neill’s team. Davis focused on the landscape, and the challenges of creating planetary ecosystems within small closed worlds. Human inhabitation, in Davis’s paintings, touches the artificial ground lightly. To depict it, Davis drew on his fondness for Buckminster Fuller’s domes and other self-built architecture like the “Zomes” made by Steve Baer at the famous Drop City commune. Davis would have been familiar with this work as a reader of Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog, which included Baer’s “Zome Primer,” an instruction manual for building these structures out of repurposed car hoods. Other buildings painted by Davis are more reminiscent of the kind of Googie architecture related to an earlier generation of pop science fiction painters like Frank R. Paul. In an interview, Davis also admitted he would go to the library and read copies of Progressive Architecture magazine for inspiration. Guidice, on the other hand, had been trained as an architect, and had made the shift from there to commercial illustration and work promoting space exploration and aviation concepts for NASA. Guidice’s paintings take the kit-of-parts concepts from work like Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67, and remix them to create even more individuality. Reyner Banham wrote about the concept of the “Terrassenhaus,” the scheme of terracing trays that megastructural projects use to shape space, in his book Megastructure: Urban Futures of the Recent Past. Safdie used the resulting platforms as the basis for his notion of “for everyone, a garden,” combining high-rise density with a suburban Garden City ethos. In Guidice’s renderings the friendly modernist Garden Cities like Columbia, outside Baltimore, take their comfortable combination of vernacular and contemporary into new high-density suburbs in space. These speculations strike a compromised balance between the displacing conditions in space—like the unfamiliar inverted horizon, the hostile environment outside, and the small size of the habitat—and the excitement inherent in exploring and making new worlds. The speculative contemporary architecture of the 1960s and ’70s—small-scale personal construction with sheet metal, and large-scale New Towns made of reinforced concrete—is put to use to show that space is for you. The two illustrators, acting as designers, show that the architecture of the future space city can be adapted to your lifestyle, whether you’re a dropout desert communalist, or a cosmopolitan terrace urbanite. Fred Scharmen teaches architecture and urban design at Morgan State University and is the author of the upcoming book Space Settlements.
Voters in Kansas City overwhelmingly approved a new $1 billion plan on Tuesday to transform the Kansas City International Airport (KCI). Passed by a 75-to-25 margin, work now begins on tearing down the existing three terminals and consolidating the airport into one building. Leading up to the vote, Maryland-based Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate had been tapped by Kansas City officials to develop the airport, with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) designing. Opened in 1972, the clover-shaped KSI was almost immediately made obsolete in the same year by the passage of new airport security requirements. The horseshoe arrangement allows passengers to easily get from the street to the gate, but also precludes the rigorous security checkpoints that modern airports require. Public opinion over the terminals has been sharply divided ever since the installation of an unwieldy glass wall between the ticketing and boarding area, required by the FAA after a hijacking attempt. SOM’s proposal for the airport has tried to keep the same level of convenience that Kansas City residents are used to. Their H-shaped terminal will have two concourses and accommodate 35 gates, and the arrivals and departure area has been split across different levels while still retaining curbside service. An improved arrangement of dining and retail options has been added as well, especially important as the project will be funded in part by concessions sales. Most striking is the firm's attempt to bring natural light into the concrete-topped concourse. Floor-to-ceiling windows and an undulating roof structure that references rolling hills is split up with even more glass that will give passengers uninterrupted views. Besides adding parking and expanding the size of security areas to avoid a passenger backlog, SOM has also included a series of two-story-tall fountains capable of having messages projected into them, reminiscent of Safdie Architect’s Water Vortex in Singapore’s Changi Airport. However, the project may be still tenuous despite the project’s 2021 completion goal. Edgemoor had been selected by the city after promising to pay for the project by taking on private debt without burdening taxpayers, but this also exposes them to bearing any cost overruns down the line. The firm now has to complete a detailed construction agreement with the city or the project will be handed off to AECOM. The airport vote follows a riverfront master plan unveiled in July, and it looks like new development in Kansas City won’t slow down anytime soon. The full terminal master plan and set of site studies can be found here.
Today precisely marks the 50th anniversary of Expo 67 in Montreal, the renowned world's fair that captured the creative spirit of late 20th-century architecture and design. To commemorate the occasion, Canada Post and architect Moshe Safdie unveiled a stamp which features the image of Habitat 67, the experimental urban housing project that was built for expo’s living exhibition. Since 1967, the model community has become an icon of Canadian identity and was officially designated as a National Heritage Site. This, however, is not the first time that Habitat 67 has made its way into the realm of memorabilia. Back in 2012 it won and online competition to be manufactured as a LEGO replica set, though to the dismay of its fans, production of the miniatures never materialized. The stamp is the first in a series of ten that celebrate the sesquicentennial (150-year) anniversary of Canada. The event also coincides with Habitat ‘67 vers l’avenir / The Shape of Things to Come an exhibition of Safdie's work at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) Centre de Design, on view from June 1 to August 13, 2017.
University College of London’s Bartlett School of Architecture’s fourth installment of its student-run magazine, LOBBY, hits shelves this week. The bright and glossy quarterly is named after the school’s primary exhibition/gathering space, however, it also embodies that word’s meaning as a verb, as in “to lobby.” While the publication aims to increase the relevance of architectural dialogue, it also tries to broader its scope by covering topics normally at the fringe of the profession and discipline: this issue alone has articles on Tinder, the UK housing crisis, trash, the architectural consequences of internet and data, and Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch. In fact, LOBBY invites submissions from anyone who can hew to its broad themes. The publication also features interviews from prominent figures—this issue features interviews with Denise Scott Brown and Moshe Safdie—and employs slick graphics and colorful layouts. LOBBY No. 4, “Abundance,” picks up where last Winter’s “Defiance” issue left off by surveying a topic architecture students and recent graduates today know well: doing more with less in a time of austerity. After releasing first-look images of the new issue to The Architect's Newspaper, LOBBY Editor-In-Chief Regner Ramos said via email, “With this issue one of the things we were asking ourselves was, how can we reinvent our world and create abundance out of our current shortages? How can scarcity lead to abundance?” Ramos goes on to say, “We've had a lot of really great photographers and illustrators who like the work we're doing and have been really keen on collaborating with us. I think that's one of the things that makes this magazine special, that it's really bringing creatives together to deliver a really special product that doesn't quite look like any other architecture magazine out there. Yes, it's a magazine for architecture lovers, but it's also accessible, wide in its range of content and editorially and visually curated.” Current and past LOBBY issues can be found on their website.