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Major Exhibition Explores the Mastery of Moshe Safdie and a Lifetime of Architectural Achievements
Moshe Safdie, Rendering of Study Number 4 – A-Frame Membrane Habitat. Courtesy Safdie Architects, Boston, Massachusetts, created by Archpartners.

OTTAWA.- Architectural visionary, successful entrepreneur and humanist are all words that describe one of Canada’s most renowned architects, Moshe Safdie. Opened to the public at the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) on October 6, 2010 and on view until January 9, 2011, Global Citizen: The Architecture of Moshe Safdie is the most comprehensive retrospective of his work to date and celebrates over 40 years of his remarkable achievements and contributions to city skylines, civic buildings and personal habitats. Organized by the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas and the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles (both designed by Moshe Safdie), and curated by Donald Albrecht, an independent curator and curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of the City of New York, this exhibition takes an unprecedented look at Safdie’s work and philosophy. It also illustrates his extraordinary career as a leading architect, urban planner, theorist, educator, and author. After its presentation in Ottawa, Global Citizen will go on tour to Chicago, Los Angeles, and Bentonville, Arkansas.

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.

“Moshe Safdie designed one of the finest museum buildings in the world for Canada’s national collection; one that magnificently ennobles its function,” said NGC Director, Marc Mayer. “The National Gallery of Canada is his first art museum and its exhilarating perspectives go a long way to prepare the visitor for the unique cultural experiences we hope that each one will have. This exhibition travels the world to show us the extraordinary variety of equally intelligent, inventive and meaningful buildings that Safdie has created throughout his brilliant career.”

Global Citizen – a 40-year retrospective
The exhibition guides viewers on a journey from Safdie’s groundbreaking Habitat for Expo ’67 in Montreal to his most recent projects in Asia and the U.S. Divided in five sections, each dedicated to pivotal points in the trajectory of his career, Global Citizen explores Safdie’s structures and the thinking that shapes them through approximately 175 drawings, sketches, videos, photographs and scale models. To further contextualize the architectural and humanist dimensions of Safdie’s work, Global Citizen includes audio and video monitors that parallel the developments of the projects and his career. The exhibition’s concluding section – Habitat of the Future − 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.

Profoundly influenced by his upbringing in Haifa, Israel, Safdie believes in an economic and collectivist approach to architecture, as well as in integrating nature into his designs to ensure the quality of residential life – Habitat 67 being a classic example. Often monumental but always inviting, many of his civic buildings are characterized by the use of transcendent light, powerful geometry, iconic forms and the expression of cultural identity. These elements are easily recognizable in the National Gallery of Canada, which was one of Safdie’s earliest great communal spaces and is the first permanent home of the nation’s art collection. The Gallery’s design incorporates Canadian contexts through its materials and local elements, such as the Parliamentary Library-inspired, conically-shaped Great Hall, and its relationship with the Ottawa River.

“Through his buildings,” said Albrecht, “Moshe Safdie has been especially adept at realizing the aspirations of a surprisingly diverse group of clients. For them 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 and in such diversity of project type and geography.”

Building highlights in the exhibition
Buildings that are highlighted in the exhibition include Safdie’s thesis project at McGill University, the precursor to Habitat, Montreal (1964-1967), which was commissioned by the Canadian government for the upcoming international world fair, Expo ’67, when he was only 29 years old;the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1983-1988), the most significant of Safdie’s projects that helped shape Canada’s identity and the first of several museum buildings; the Mamilla Center, Jerusalem (1972-2010), a 113 310 square meters central business and mixed-use district for which Safdie completed a master plan that includes urban, architectural, and landscape design; The Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles (1986-2012), an urban, pedestrian-oriented ensemble in an automobile-centric culture; The Khalsa Heritage Centre, Anandpur Sahib, India (1998-2011), a new museum and cultural center that celebrates 500 years of Sikh heritage; United States Institute of Peace Headquarters, Washington, D.C. (2001-2012), a center comprised of research facilities, a conference center, and a museum dedicated to the theme of peacemaking; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas (2005-2011), which seamlessly integrates art, architecture and landscape; and Marina Bay Sands, Singapore, (2006-2010), 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.

Moshe Safdie
Moshe Safdie is a leading architect, urban planner, theorist, educator, and author. Embracing a comprehensive and humane design philosophy, Safdie has been a visionary force in architecture and urban planning and design for over forty years. His work continues to evolve and grow, guided by a strong set of values and without succumbing to current trends. Safdie is committed to architecture that supports and enhances a project’s program; that is informed by the geographic, social, and cultural elements that define a place; and that responds to human needs and aspirations.

National Gallery of Canada | Moshe Safdie | Ottawa | Marc Mayer |

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