Moshe Safdie (1938– )

Many architects have had a hand in designing museums, hotels, and airports. Some have been involved in planning large-scale urban spaces. But Moshe Safdie has the distinction of having been called upon to rebuild one of the oldest cities on earth.

Safdie, born and raised in Haifa, (then part of Palestine), moved to Montreal with his family as a teenager. After having graduated from McGill, he apprenticed under Louis Kahn in Philadelphia. In 1964, Safdie established his own firm to realize Habitat ’67 – a design based on his Masters’ thesis — which was chosen as the central feature for the World’s Fair in Montreal. The final project, a complex of prefabricated residences slotted together like Lego blocks, garnered him worldwide attention.

In 1967, he moved to Israel, to be part of the team that rebuilt Old Jerusalem after the Six Day War. Following this immense commission, Safdie taught at Yale, McGill, and Ben Gurion University, and in 1978 he moved his firm’s head office to Massachusetts, where he spent six years as director of the Urban Design Program at Harvard University Graduate School of Design.

Safdie is now known as a world-class architect, educator, urban planner, theorist and author. His works are known for their dramatic curves, arrays of simple geometric patterns, and usage of windows and open spaces. Has worked in locations all over the world, including Senegal, Iran, Singapore and the northern Canadian arctic. Notable works include Vancouver Library Square, The National Gallery of Canada, The United States Institute of Peace in Washington D.C., and the central museum of Israel’s Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem.

Safdie is a Companion of the Order of Canada and recipient of the Gold Medal of the Royal Architecture Institute of Canada.