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Moshe Safdie, International Architect

b. 1938


Informal portrait of Moshe Safdie at the 2003 film premier of My Architect about Louis Kahn

Architect Moshe Safdie, November 2003

Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images ©2003 Getty Images
Moshe Safdie designed U.S. Federal Courthouse, Springfield, Massachusetts (2008)

Moshe Safdie designed U.S. Federal Courthouse, Springfield, Massachusetts (2008)

Photo © Jackie Craven
Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum by Moshe Safdie

Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum by Moshe Safdie

Photo © israeltourism on flickr.com, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

When Moshe Safdie was growing up in Israel, he thought he would study agriculture and become a farmer. Instead he became a citizen of three countries—Israel, Canada, and the United States—with architectural offices in four cities—Jerusalem, Toronto, Boston, and Singapore.


July 14, 1938, Haifa, Israel; family moved to Canada when he was 15.

Education and Training:

  • 1961, McGill University, Montreal, Canada, six year degree in architecture
  • 1962, apprenticed with Daniel (Sandy) van Ginkel and Blanche Lemco-van Ginkel, Canada
  • 1963, apprenticed with Louis I. Kahn in Philadelphia, PA
  • 1964, Moshe Safdie and Associates, Inc.

Representative Projects:

  • 1967, Habitat '67, World Exhibition Expo '67, Montreal, Canada
  • 1988, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Canada
  • 1991, Jean-Noël Desmarais Pavilion, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Canada
  • 1993, Mamilla District, David's Village, Jerusalem, Israel
  • 1994 - 2012, Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, California
  • 1995, Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Vancouver, Canada
  • 2000, Exploration Place Science Center, Wichita, Kansas
  • 2003, Public Library, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • 2003, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts
  • 2005, Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, Jerusalem, Israel
  • 2007, Lester B. Pearson International Airport, Toronto, Canada
  • 2008, U.S. Federal Courthouse, Springfield, Massachusetts
  • 2011, Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort, Singapore
  • 2011, Khalsa Heritage Memorial Complex, Punjab, India
  • 2011, U.S. Institute of Peace Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
  • 2011, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Kansas City, Missouri
  • 2011, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas

Six Design Principles that Direct Safdie's Approach:

  1. Architecture and Planning Should Shape the Public Realm: "create meaningful, vital, and inclusive social spaces"
  2. Architecture has a Purpose: design buildings that "address human needs and aspirations"
  3. Respond to the Essence of Place: design "specific to place and culture"
  4. Architecture Should be Inherently Buildable: design is informed by "the specific qualities of materials and the processes of construction"
  5. Build Responsibly: "We have to use resources efficiently while we advance our clients' goals."
  6. Humanize the Megascale: "mitigate the dehumanizing effect of mega-scale, and enhance the quality of life in our cities and neighborhoods"

Source: Philosophy at msafdie.com [accessed June 18, 2012]


  • He who seeks truth shall find beauty. He who seeks beauty shall find vanity. He who seeks order shall find gratification. He who seeks gratification shall be disappointed. He who considers himself the servant of his fellow beings shall find the joy of self-expression. He who seeks self-expression shall fall into the pit of arrogance. Arrogance is incompatible with nature. Through nature, the nature of the universe and the nature of man, we shall seek truth. If we seek truth, we shall find beauty.—March 2002, Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) presentation, On Building Uniqueness
  • I think you need to, as an architect, understand the essence of a place and create a building that feels like it resonates with the culture of a place. So my buildings in India or in Kansas City or in Arkansas or in Singapore, they come out different because the places are so different.PBS Newshour, Jeffrey Brown, October 14, 2011 transcript
  • These cities of 20 million and 30 million people, with densities of thousands of families per acre, they require new inventions to humanize that mega-scale, to find a way in which, though we live densely and though we live one on top of each other, we still want nature, and we still want sunlight and we still want the garden, and we still want all the qualities that make a place humane. And that's our responsibility.PBS Newshour, Jeffrey Brown, October 14, 2011 transcript
  • I think, you really want to know about architecture? Taxi drivers. You will always find out about what the public feels about a building from taxi drivers.PBS Newshour, Jeffrey Brown, October 14, 2011 transcript

Moshe Safdie and McGill University:

Safidie modified his McGill University thesis to submit to the Montreal Expo '67 competition. With the acceptance of Habitat '67, Safdie's career and continued association with Montreal was established. In 1990, the architect donated his vast archive of papers, drawings, and project records to the John Bland Canadian Architecture Collection (CAC) at McGill University.

Books by Safdie:

  • Beyond Habitat (1970)
  • For Everyone a Garden (1974)
  • Form and Purpose (1982)
  • Jerusalem: The Future of the Past (1989)
  • The City After the Automobile (1997)
  • Moshe Safdie (Volume I) (1996)
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  • Moshe Safdie (Volume II) (2009)
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About Safdie:

  • Global Citizen: The Architecture of Moshe Safdie by Donald Albrecht (2010)
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  • Moshe Safdie, The Power of Architecture by Donald Winkler, 2004

Sources for This Article:

*Biography, Safdie Architects (PDF)
*Projects, Safdie Architects
*"Moshe Safdie, architect and global citizen," by Avigayil Kadesh, Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, March 15, 2011
[websites accessed June 18, 2012]

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