Architecture is as varied as our life is. The greatest buildings are ones that work very well and at the same time do to our spirits what they need to do." - Moshe Safdie
Global Citizen: The Architecture of Moshe Safdie' provides a detailed look at the career of one of the more intriguing and enigmatic figures on the contemporary architecture scene, exploring his aesthetic language of transcendent light and powerful geometric forms. Using sketches, models, photographs, and films of twenty-five projects, the exhibition portrays Safdie's architecture not only as visual art but as a medium for advancing social, political, and cultural goals. The exhibit, currently showing at the Skirball Cultural Center through March 2nd, also coincides with the grand opening of Safdie's latest addition to the Skirball, a project he's expanded in four phases since 1994.
The exhibition begins with his most famous design, Habitat '67, a radical experiment in affordable housing constructed for the 1967 World's Fair. The project is presented through a series of drawings, concept studies, and extraordinary models of the complex as it was originally designed: integrating residential, commercial, and institutional facilities, while also displaying photographs of the more modest development that was actually built. One of the highlights of the exhibit is a restored prefab laundry and bathroom unit of fiberglass-reinforced plastic that was constructed specifically for Habitat.
From there, exhibition curator Donald Albrecht leads visitors through a half-century of Safdie's output, showcasing both fully realized and unbuilt designs. The buildings exhibited exemplify what has been termed “progressive contextualism" , combining the social activism and advanced technologies of modernism with profound respect for historical and regional context; building creating its own identity. The Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem is a museum complex dedicated to Holocaust history, art, remembrance, and research, and is a fine example of this design concept. The historic museum consists of a mostly underground prismatic structure 16.5 meters high and 183 meters long that cuts through the Yad Vashem hillside, penetrating from the south and protruding to the north towards the valley, “a volcanic eruption of light and life."
Salt Lake City Public Library, another standout in the exhibit, recognizes the civic importance of the library through siting, composition, and also with grand interior and exterior spaces. The building contains many dramatic features, primarily the glass-covered curved street that borders the stacks and contains vertical circulation.
The exhibition also spotlights Safdie's expanding presence across Asia, including sections on the mega-scale Marina Bay Sands project, a 10-million-square-foot development on the Singapore waterfront that forms a gateway to the city. The complex is organized around principal axes that extend into the surrounding fabric, which can clearly be seen in the full scale model displayed.
“Global Citizen" bookends its displays with Safdie's Habitat projects, beginning with Habitat 67' and ending the show with his hypothetical “Habitat of the Future," created specifically for this show, in which Safdie reconsiders the original project in light of the social, technological, and contextual developments of the years since he became a household name.
The show, installed in Safdie's light-filled galleries at the Skirball, allows visitors the chance to appreciate and reassess the full scope of the Moshe Safdie's singular career and his profoundly humanistic approach to design. His architecture has not only influenced architects and designers alike, but has transformed the way people perceive and interact with their surrounding environment.
To schedule a visit and learn more about the exhibit. 'Global Citizen: The Architecture of Moshe Safdie', and the Skirball Cultural Center, please go to
All Images provided by Skirball Cultural Center.