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The Path to Crystal Bridges: New exhibition showcases the work of architect Moshe Safdie
Skirball Cultural Center, 2005; Photography by Timothy Hursley; courtesy of Crystal
Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR.

BENTONVILLE, ARK.- Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is known not only for its remarkable collection of American masterworks, but also for its breathtaking architecture and natural setting. The museum was designed by international architect Moshe Safdie, with specific attention to integrating the building complex with the landscape and providing a venue in which guests could enjoy art, architecture, and nature simultaneously. On October 13, Crystal Bridges opened Moshe Safdie: The Path to Crystal Bridges, a temporary exhibition that traces the fascinating design development of the museum by showcasing four of Safdie’s earlier buildings whose architecture helped to inform Crystal Bridges. This exhibition illuminates Safdie’s path to Crystal Bridges by highlighting his aesthetic language of transcendent light, powerful geometric form, and metaphoric imagery.

Moshe Safdie has created iconic buildings in countries around the world. His design for Crystal Bridges is completely unique, and yet references elements from several of his other national and international projects. Four of these projects are highlighted, through scale models, photographs, video, and architectural drawings, in this exhibition.

Habitat ‘67, the groundbreaking multi-family dwelling that brought Safdie international attention at the 1967 Montreal World Exposition, embodies some of the core concepts that can be seen in Crystal Bridges today—in particular, a sophisticated synthesis of architecture and landscape, featuring rooftop gardens and terraces that were integrated into the built forms.

Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem features a sky-lit concrete tunnel that cuts through one of the site's hills. This project showcases Safdie’s masterful use of light as a means of creating emotion and atmosphere. As visitors leave the tunnel, its walls open onto a breathtaking panoramic view of the countryside. Crystal Bridges’ design was also influenced by the use of dramatic outdoor vistas.

The National Gallery of Canada, like Crystal Bridges, features an innovative use of glass, including a glazed colonnade and an elaborately sky-lit great hall. The manner in which this building’s roof-shapes evoke the adjacent historic buildings also showcases Safdie’s ability to adapt his designs to merge seamlessly with a site’s historical and natural context.

Safdie's design for the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles most closely resembles Crystal Bridges in its use of architectural concrete banded in cedar. A complex of pavilions is located on two levels and built into the hillside, marrying the structures to the natural surroundings. The Skirball’s design, featuring interior spaces linked by outdoor courtyards, amphitheaters, and landscaped ravines, was a powerful influence on the final concept for Crystal Bridges.

Moshe Safdie: The Path to Crystal Bridges is on show concurrently with See the Light: The Luminist Tradition in American Art, a temporary exhibition which traces the evolution of light through the history of American art.

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