Updated July 14, 2016
Pioneers, too, grow up. Hard to believe, but architect Moshe Safdie — whose 1960s ideas still seem inconceivably fresh and exciting today — celebrates his 78th birthday today.
Safdie broke into international recognition as an extremely young architect, straight out of school. After graduating from McGill University and working at the office of Louis Kahn, Safdie was invited to execute a version of his thesis in the Montreal Expo of 1967. The result, Habitat ’67, was a groundbreaking project that was almost too utopian to be true. Over 50 years after its completion, the project still stands on the bank of the Saint Lawrence River and is considered one of Montreal’s most beloved icons and residential complexes.
Safdie at Habitat ’67 in Montreal, Canada; via SAN DIEGO JEWISH WORLD
Born in the city of Haifa, then part of Palestine (now Israel), Safdie moved to Canada with his family when he was a 15-year-old teenager. His attachment to Israel remained intact throughout the years, and for a long period his practice held a central office in Jerusalem. There he built a few of his contemporary projects, such as the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum and the Mamilla Hotel and shopping strip in Jerusalem.
His practice’s main office is located off the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Besides a long list of projects in the US and in Canada, Safdie has been active in planning in Asia and the Middle and Far East. For many, though, he is more familiar as an author or a professor, and a key figure in the foundation of the modern discipline of Urban Design.
An axonometric drawing of the Tetris-like precast pieces that form the basic units of Habitat ’67; via ArchDaily
Habitat also featured on the Expo’s postcard; via proliferations
One of Habitat’s façades today; via ArchDaily
Safdie’s Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum: a formal and psychological investigative project; photo courtesy of Safdie Architects
Inside the meditative Yad Vashem museum; via Safdie Architects
Safdie’s enormous project in Singapore, Marina Bay Sands; via Syahdiar
For more mastery from Moshe, check out our special feature in the ongoing series “How Architecture Is Born”: 6 Meticulous Models by Safdie Architects and Their Real-World Counterparts.