The most famous architectural works by starchitect Moshe Safdie

Undoubtedly, he is among the architects who have most influenced international modern architecture, certainly deserving of being labelled as “starchitect”, although this definition would probably not please him. Moshe Safdie has been among the great personalities in world architecture since 1967 and, in all these decades, he has always strived to propose, from project to project, original architectural works, which are never predictable, never purposeless, never similar to other architectural works built elsewhere: each of Safdie’s works is conceived exclusively for that specific location and to give value to that specific community. In this article we will look at who Moshe Safdie is, and then discover some of his most famous works.

Moshe Safdie’s career as an architect

Born in Israel in 1938, Moshe Safdie moves with his family to Canada in 1953. He does not grow up with a passion for architecture, on the contrary: in Haifa he is mainly interested in chemistry and mathematics and dreams of studying agriculture. It is only once he arrives in Canada that, following the results of a career aptitude test, he considers becoming an architect. He thus enrols at McGill University and soon begins to develop an aversion to the precepts of social housing, which are inextricably linked to a low quality of life. After graduating in 1961, he is hired by Louis Khan’s firm in Philadelphia, only to set up on his own business three years later. Back in Montreal, he retrieves the project he drew up for his thesis in order to propose a single architectural complex organised on several levels capable of providing residential, institutional and commercial spaces. The highlight of such complex is the careful design of the façades, guaranteeing all residents a view onto the external surroundings, and ensuring natural lighting. His project is approved in view of Expo 67 to become the famous Habitat 67.

Moshe Safdie’s whole way of thinking is already evident in that building: in the many projects that followed, his main objective remained that of creating spaces capable of including people, of improving their lives, reinventing condominium buildings and more.

Moshe Safdie’s greatest architectural works

So here follows a curated selection of the most famous architectural works by Moshe Safdie, obviously starting from the afore-mentioned Habitat 67.

Habitat 67, Montreal

Built for the Montreal World Exposition, Habitat 67 immediately turned Moshe Safdie into an international reference point. The vast prefabricated complex took the form of a “cluster” of cubes, 354 in all, accommodating 160 flats (each with its own small garden) arranged in three pyramids along the banks of the Saint Laurent River. At the time of its inauguration, due to the global reach of the Expo, Habitat 67 was commented on all over the world, splitting the public’s opinion in half: people either loved it or hated it. With its open spaces, its terraced gardens, this building offered a new way of viewing construction in densely populated city.

Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

From Moshe Safdie’s first famous building, we move directly to an architectural work completed in 2010 that is rightly famous all over the world: Marina Bay Sands. This is a distinctive construction, which has become an architectural symbol of Singapore: three skyscrapers support an enormous terrace that is 191 metres high. On said terrace are three interconnected swimming pools, as well as gardens, trees and so on. Inside the towers there are a hotel (with 2,560 rooms), a casino, two theatres, several restaurants and shops.

Kauffman Center, Kansas City

Probably Marina Bay Sands and Habitat 67 are Moshe Safdie’s most famous architectural works. But the list of remarkable projects by the naturalised Canadian architect is definitely long. Take for instance the Kauffman Center in Kansas City, Missouri. It is a centre that combines educational, social and economic functions, and which dazzles with its external structure consisting of two semi-shells: there are concentric vertical arches that open towards the south, while the main façade is made entirely of glass. Built between 2006 and 2011, it houses two separate performance halls, the Muriel Kauffman Theatre and the Helzberg Hall.

National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel, Jerusalem

In his homeland, Moshe Safdie recently designed the building that houses the National Campus for the Archaeology of Israel, a public museum overlooking and open to the city. The building is located on Museum Hill, between the Israel Museum and the Bible Lands Museum.

Raffles City, Chongqing

Raffles City is a complex of no less than eight buildings in the Yuzhong district in the Chinese city of Chongqing. What is most striking here is the presence of the horizontal , glazed tunnel situated at a height of 250 metres, a sort of horizontal skyscraper resembling a vessel (indeed, the two rivers Yangtze and Jialing meet here). Called the “Crystal Tunnel”, it offers a panoramic view of the city and features, among other things, a panoramic lobby with a swimming pool, a spa, a gymnasium and green areas.

Habitat, Qinhuangdao

200 miles east of Beijing, Qinhuangdao lies on the Bohai Sea. Here Moshe Safdie chose to build, instead of many separate towers, a set of buildings of 16 storeys each, connected by garden-bridges at different levels; each unit has direct access to its own private terrace, always overlooking the sea. The project was completed in 2017.

Jewel Changi Airport, Singapore

We conclude our display of some of Moshe Safdie’s most famous projects with the visionary hub designed for Singapore‘s Jewel Changi Airport. A grandiose structure of steel and glass, connecting three of the airport‘s four terminals. What characterises the hub, apart from the transparent structure, is the presence of the Shiseido Forest Valley, a forest with more than 130 species of plants as well as a waterfall with an impressive 40-metre free-falling drop from the centre of the spectacular inverted dome (measuring 200 metres at its widest point). The hub, unsurprisingly called the “jewel”, was inaugurated in 2018.