Focusing on Dense Urbanism, The Architecture of Moshe Safdie at the National Academy Museum

Jewell Project-Safdie Urban Untapped Cities AFineLyneThe Jewell Project- Jewel Changi Airport, Singapore

Global Citizen: The Architecture of Moshe Safdie, the current exhibit at the National Academy Museum, explores the life and work of this prominent architect and urban designer over the course of his fifty-year career. This exhibit, which covers every floor of the museum, has a specific focus on projects devoted to issues of dense urbanism, beginning on the first floor with his iconic Habitat ’67 buildings in Montreal, Canada. What New Yorkers may be surprised to discover is that Safdie, who would go on to design the Singapore Marina Bay Sands Hotel, the Institute of Peace in Washington D.C., and the forthcoming new Jewel Changi Airport in Singapore, had planned Habitat schemes for the New York City waterfront as well.

Habitat67-Safdie Untapped Cities AFineLyneAs you enter the National Academy Museum, you are greeted by the model, Habitat ’67

While still an architecture student at McGill University, Moshe Safdie created Habitat ’67 as a master’s thesis project, which was presented at the Expo 67 World’s Fair in Montreal. The design was Safdie’s answer to dealing with the problems of a dense urban environment. As an architect, urban designer, theorist and author, he has devoted his career to grappling with the broad challenges of urban life. The exhibit is composed of more than 175 objects, including scale models, sketches, photographs and films. The models take us from his groundbreaking Habitat ’67 in Montreal to the Jewel Changi Airport in Singapore, which broke ground this past December 2014.

In the current exhibit, Safdie rethinks his original design in light of global changes over the years, such as massive population increases, shifting real estate economics, and social and cultural transformations. The exhibit showcases projects that seek to address our most pressing issue – dense urbanism. Earlier this year, Safdie won the 2015 American Institute of Architects Gold Medal, which is the profession’s highest honor. In his acceptance speech he said that “humanizing megascale is the single most urgent task that awaits us in the decades to come.” Curated by Donald Albrecht (independent curator and curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of the City of New York who produced the exhibit Saving Place: 50 Years of New York City Landmarks earlier this year), below are examples that caught our eye.

1-Moshe Safdie Habitat NY Untapped Cities AFineLyneModel, Habitat New York, Scheme I

Safdie developed two different Habitat schemes for New York City, along the East River, in 1967-68. Scheme I was a forty-five story residential building made up of octahedral units, joining together to form a dramatic triangular space overlooking the FDR Drive. The developers set their sights on a downtown location, hoping for greater economic opportunities in the financial district. Thus, Scheme II, which featured apartments on upper levels, and below, commercial space, hotel and a marina. However the city’s worsening financial conditions caused the project to be cancelled.

1-Safde Habitat NY Untapped Cities AFineLyneModel, Habitat New York, Scheme II

As you move from floor to floor, along the elegant winding staircase within the museum, quotes from Safdie are written on the walls, giving you some context and the feeling behind his work. “The structure of a building is not just what holds it up; it is also the structure of light, the structure of air, the structure of the distribution of services, of movement, the psychic structure of human response to place, identity and privacy.” (1970). “I have a dream of high-rise cities transformed, penetrated by light and sun, with plant life and gardens on land and sky. Towers clustered into communities, served by innovative modes of transportation mobility restored.” (2015). “What we recognize as the special character of a city is the synthesis of an identifiable spatial structure with the unique mysteries and secrets of its site.” (1997).

Safdie-Future-Dense urbanism Untapped Cities AFineLyneDense Urbanism, Habitat of the Future, 4th Floor

1-Future -The Jewell Project Safdie Untapped Cities AFineLyneThe Jewel Project, Jewel Changi Airport, Singapore

Peace Institute in DC Moshe Safdie Untapped Cities AFineLyneU.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C. completed in 2011

Moshe Safdie Institute of Peace DC Untapped Cities AFineLyneUnited States Institute of Peach Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

1-Safdie Centre Pompidou Competition Untapped Cities AFineLyneCompetition for Centre du Plateau Beaubourg, today’s Centre Pompidou. Safdie’s entry took second place.

1-Centre Pompidou National Academy Moshe Safdie Untapped Cities AFineLyneSafdie’s entry in the Centre Pompidou Competition, 1971 (unbuilt)

1-Old City Jerusalem Safdie National Academy Untapped Cities AFineLyne

Safdie established a branch office in Jerusalem in 1970 after the return of Jerusalem’s Old City to Israel. This interest in historical town-making was combined with his interest in social activism and advanced technologies.

1-Old City Jerusalem Safdie Untapped Cities AFineLyneOld City, Jerusalem

1-Ben Gurion Airport Moshe Safdie Untapped Cities AFineLyneBen Gurion International Airport (1995-2004)

1-Safdie-Hewbrew Union College Untapped Cities AFineLyneHebrew Union College outside the Old City walls (1976-78)

1-Holocaust Museum project-National Academy Museum Safdie Untapped Cities AFineLyneHall of Names, Holocaust Museum, 2005

1-Holocaust Museum Safdie Untapped Cities AFineLyneThis Holocaust Museum is a 650-foot long triangular tunnel. As visitors leave the museum, the tunnel walls open onto a panoramic view

1-Holocaust Museum Moshe Safdie Untapped Cities AFineLyneYad Vashem Holocaust Museum, Jerusalem (1997-2005) 

1-Holocaust Museum Moshe Safdie AFineLyne Untapped CitiesSketchbook #113, August-September 1998 – Interior perspective of the Hall of Names, Holocaust Museum

1-Mamilla Center Jerusalem Moshe Safdie Untapped Cities AFineLyneMamilla Center, Jerusalem. The map represents the twenty-eight acre commercial and residential development that forms an extension of Jerusalem’s Old City. Safdie links the central business district to the west, and the Old City to the east – connecting new and old, which included Arab and Jewish sectors. The design is based on restoration of the topography of the historic Hinnom Valley, and connected by vehicular and pedestrian paths.

1-West Wall Jerusalem proposal Safdie Untapped Cities AFineLyneWest Wall Precinct proposal, Jerusalem (1971-85) unbuilt 

1-Moshe Safdie Singapore-Untapped Cities AFineLyneModel, Sky Habitat Bishan, Singapore (2015)

Moshe Safdie Marina Bay Sands Singapore-Untapped Cities AFineLyneMarina Bay Sands, Republic of Singapore (2006-10), forty-acre, mixed-use complex 

Safdie-Nat'l Art Museum of China Untapped Cities AFineLyneNational Art Museum of China, Beijing (2010-2012) unbuilt

Safdie - India Untapped Cities AFineLyne Khalsa Heritage CentreKhalsa Heritage Centre, Anandpur Sahib, India (1998-2011) This museum celebrates 500 years of Sikh history.

Safdie-Dubai Mosque-Untapped Cities AFineLynePalm Jumeirah Gateway Mosque, Dubai (2008) unbuilt-planned to accommodate over 2,000 worshipers

1-National Gallery of Canada Moshe Safdie Untapped Cities AFineLyne

National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1983-88).  The new project had to fit comfortably into its historic context, and in addition, boasts communal spaces like the monumental stairway, glazed colonnade overlooking the Ottawa River and an elaborate sky-lit great hall.

National Gallery of Canada-Moshe Safdie Untapped Cities AFineLyneNational Gallery of Canada, sketch books, clay models and plans

1-Safdie-Montreal-National Academy Museum Untapped Cities AFineLyne

Habitat ’67 Montreal (1964-67) (above), an exhibition pavilion at the 1967 World’s Expo in Montreal was a radical solution to the need for high-quality, affordable housing. This new concept created a city-within-a-city, integrating residential, commercial and institutional space in a single complex. Only a small part of the original proposal was ever built.

1-Skirball Center L.A. Moshe Safdie Untapped Cities AFineLyneSkirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles (1986-2013) 

Moshe Safdie currently has an architectural and urban planning practice headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts, with offices in Jerusalem, Toronto, Singapore and Shanghai. The National Academy Museum is located at 1083 Fifth Avenue at 89th Street. Global Citizen: The Architecture of Moshe Safdie will be on view at the National Academy until January 10, 2016. It will then move on to the Boston Society of Architects, BSA Space, from February 15 through May 13, 2016. Get in touch with the author at AFineLyne.

 Moshe Safdie, National Academy Museum

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