Global Citizen: The Architecture of Moshe Safdie, debuting at the National Gallery of Canada on October 6 Print
Written by Alina Sumajin   
Monday, 27 September 2010 12:50

Exhibition Exploring the Work of Moshe Safdie, Architect,
Urban Planner, Theorist, Educator, and Author to Premiere at the National Gallery of Canada in October 2010

Global Citizen: The Architecture of Moshe Safdie, an unprecedented exploration of the renowned architect’s work and philosophy, will premiere at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa on October 6, 2010 and subsequently tour to Chicago, Los Angeles, and Bentonville, Arkansas. The exhibition guides viewers on a journey from Safdie’s groundbreaking Habitat for Expo ’67 in Montreal through his most recent projects in China, India, Singapore, and the U.S. Curated by Donald Albrecht, an independent curator and curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of the City of New York, the exhibition underscores Safdie’s extraordinary career as a leading architect, urban planner, theorist, educator, and author.

Global Citizen is divided into five sections, each dedicated to pivotal points of development in Safdie’s design philosophy, termed “progressive contextualism.” Flowing from his early, formative years through his vision for the future, the exhibition illuminates Safdie’s belief that a building should be an extension of its physical, historical, and cultural environments through models, sketches, photographs, and newly commissioned films of 30 building projects. To further contextualize the architectural and humanist dimensions of Safdie’s work, Global Citizen includes monitors of audio and video, periodicals, and other archival material that parallel the developments of the projects. The exhibition’s concluding section is titled Habitat of the Future, and is an evolutionary reworking of Habitat–Safdie’s radical solution for quality, affordable housing. The culmination of two years of design research, created especially for Global Citizen, Habitat of the Future proposes new design strategies that innovatively address the growing density of global cities—an ever more pressing issue today.
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“Safdie’s projects are exciting, relevant and timeless–each a brilliant expression of his design philosophy that beautifully addresses the specific functions and needs of the building,” said Marc Mayer, Director of the National Gallery of Canada, Safdie’s first museum commission and one of his earliest great communal spaces (1983-88). “We are delighted to share Safdie’s remarkable career with an exhibition that is more than a simple presentation of models and sample materials but provides a sense of space and inhabitation.” Safdie has for a generation been the leading architect of important civic projects in Canada, also including Montreal Museum of Fine Art, Ottawa City Hall, and Vancouver Library Square.

Safdie leads an international architectural and urban planning practice headquartered in Boston, MA, with branch offices in Jerusalem, Toronto, and Singapore. Safdie has recently completed a wide range of projects in a diverse set of regions. Global Citizen examines Safdie’s global practice through the exploration of these and earlier projects, all of which illustrate Safdie’s ability to create buildings that draw on the latest building technologies while capturing the essence of their unique local contexts.

The exhibition will feature Safdie’s Mamilla Center, Jerusalem, (2010) a thriving 28-acre central business and mixed-use district that links Jerusalem’s old and new city centers and combines urban, architectural, and landscape design; Marina Bay Sands, Singapore, (2010) a 5.7 billion dollar high-density, mixed-use integrated resort capped with a 2.5-acre SkyPark, located 656 feet above the water; and Khalsa Heritage Center, Anandpur Sahib, (2011) a museum and cultural center that celebrates 500 years of Sikh heritage with communal spaces dedicated to Sikh traditions and contemporary needs.

“Through his buildings,” said Albrecht, “Moshe Safdie has been especially adept at realizing the aspirations of a surprisingly diverse group of clients. He has created buildings where communities are forged of strangers, memory is enshrined, and identity is created in built form. Few architects have been able to so fully realize their philosophies in practice.”

Global Citizen is as much about Safdie’s philosophical and practical roots as it is about the future–exploring his upcoming projects in the United States. The United States Institute of Peace Headquarters, a research and public facility located on the National Mall adjacent to the Lincoln Memorial, is roofed by a steel frame and translucent glass suggesting the wings of a dove–the symbol peace–and will open to the public in 2011. Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas is scheduled to open in 2012 and epitomizes Safdie’s ability to seamlessly integrate art, architecture, and landscape elements. Composed of several pavilions set around shallow reflecting ponds, Crystal Bridges Museum contains reception, dining, and hospitality facilities, galleries, a great hall, classrooms, a library and curatorial spaces. 

Organized by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas and the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, Global Citizen explores the design and building process of Safdie’s projects in Jerusalem, North America, China, Singapore, and India. The exhibition underscores his deep impact on architectural practices and the realization of his design philosophy.

Building highlights in the exhibition will include:


Mamilla Center, Jerusalem (1972-2010), is a 28-acre central business and mixed-use district for which Safdie completed a master plan that includes urban, architectural, and landscape design.  Linking not only the old and new cities, but also east and west, and Arab and Jew in both its urban planning and its imagery, the project has transformed a former no-man’s land into a thriving urban district.

Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles (1986-2012), is an urban, pedestrian-oriented ensemble in an automobile-centric culture. Sensitive to the California climate and the steep terrain on which the Center is located, Safdie created a network of outdoor courtyards, arcades, and landscaped ravines along the base of a mountain.

The Khalsa Heritage Centre, Anandpur Sahib (1998-2011), is a new museum and cultural center that celebrates 500 years of Sikh heritage. Situated between the sand cliffs of the holy city of Anandpur Sahib, India, the two sandstone tower complexes provide spaces that respond to both the needs of contemporary culture and celebrations of the past–creating a united, communal space for Sikh aspirations and traditions. 

United States Institute of Peace Headquarters, Washington, D.C. (2001-2011) is a center comprised of research facilities, a conference center, and a museum dedicated to the theme of peacemaking. The building is organized around two atria, creating spaces for both scholarly research and public activity. The structure’s frame and translucent glass roofs suggest the wings of a dove, the symbol of peace.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas (2005-2011) seamlessly integrates art, architecture, and landscape. The project’s design is focused on protecting the natural beauty of the site and emphasizing a strong sense of place by utilizing regional materials. 

Marina Bay Sands, Singapore, (2006-2010) is a high-density, mixed-use integrated resort that unites a 2,560-room hotel, convention center, shopping and dining, theaters, museum, and a casino across the water from Singapore’s Central Business District.  The ten million square foot urban district anchors the Singapore waterfront and forms a gateway to the city. The three hotel towers are connected at the top by the 2.5-acre SkyPark, an engineering marvel 656 feet above the sea that celebrates the notion of the Garden City–the underpinning of Singapore’s urban design history.