BSA Exhibit Showcases Safdie’s Naturalistic Style of Architecture

Moshe Safdie returns to Boston with intent and is taking the city by storm with his new exhibit, Global Citizen: The Architecture of Moshe Safdie.

Opening on March 16 and running until May 22, the Boston Society of Architects will hold an exhibit showcasing the work of Safdie, the 2015 AIA Gold Medal winner. The exhibit is free to the public and features a large collection of Safdie’s models, drawings, films, and photographs from his projects all around the world.

Safdie, born in Israel, also holds Canadian and American citizenships. His extensive travels have also exposed him to a vast array of architectural styles and natural environments, evidenced by his commissions that range from places like the Tel Aviv airport to the Peabody Essex Museum located in Salem, Mass. His firm also has offices in Jerusalem, Singapore, China and Somerville, Mass.

The exhibit itself is almost like a work of art, with the models, photographs, and drawings of his buildings not only arranged in chronological order but also made to fit within the space available and to adjust to the natural light coming through the large windows. Visitors are faced with a large model of Boston as soon as they walk through the door.

Curated by Donald Albrecht, the exhibition includes large-scale models of built, unbuilt, and in-progress projects from Safdie’s career. Around every corner there is another model of a buildings with its own story to tell. Ranging from residential building to museums to libraries to convention centers, each development featured has photographs of the actual building alongside the tangible, miniature displays that show the visitor with surprising detail every curve and edge of the building.

The varying degrees of progress of these models trace his development as an architect and highlight the major works of his life, especially Habitat ’67, a housing complex that was commissioned for Montreal’s 1967 world expo.

“In his career, Safdie has tackled the challenges of urban life head-on with solutions that create enjoyable, livable spaces, connecting individuals to nature and their community,” Albrecht said in an email.

The exhibit as a whole also focuses on the critical junctures in the development of Safdie’s style of “progressive contextualism,” where a construction should act both within the natural limitations of the environment but also be an “extension” of the same.

It is organized into five sections: Safdie’s formative years as an undergraduate and the launch of his practice in 1964; the establishment of a branch office and his work across Jerusalem in the 1970s; a period of major institutional commissions across North America throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s; a more recent phase of diverse commissions in new global centers in India, Singapore, and China; and examples of his firm’s current large-scale work confronting the challenges of dense urbanism around the world.

Going up the translucent staircase brings the visitor to the bulk of the exhibit, with the original model for his now-famous Habitat ’67 among the objects on display. The handiwork done by Safdie is apparent in this model and others.

The show becomes a tangible expression of the evolution of the practice of architecture, from its origins in hand-built models to computer renderings that give the visitors the experience of what a building would look like from the inside.

One of the lasting images of the exhibit, along with the large miniature model of Boston, is that of the model of the Marina Sands Hotel in Singapore.

The large display showcases Safdie at his best: aggressive, as evidenced by the large terrace on the rooftop that serves as a connector between the three towers of the hotel, but delicate, as the building looks at peace with its surroundings.

“I am thrilled to welcome Global Citizen at BSA Space, the first exhibition in a series of shows celebrating seminal firms with roots in Boston,” 2016 BSA president Tamara Roy said to Canadian Architect. “Safdie’s office has made a lasting impact on our local and regional architectural and civic community, and this exhibition will be a testament to an impressive body of work.”

Featured Image by BSA

About Juan Olavarria 70 Articles
Juan Olavarria is the Metro Editor for The Heights. He is double majoring in Economics and Philosophy. He enjoys watching Liverpool FC and has to frequently remind himself to stop trying to defend the merits of a midfield diamond. You can follow him on Twitter at @Juan_Heights.