A citizen of Israel, Canada, and the U.S. born into a Levantine Jewish family, Moshe Safdie is today one of the most distinguished living architects and urban planners. His works include the Marina Bay Sands resort in Singapore, Ben-Gurion Airport’s Terminal 3, the Harvard University Hillel, and the National Gallery of Canada; he also helped to design Israel’s Merkavah tank. In a review of Safdie’s recently published memoir, Michael M. Rosen writes:
Born in 1938 in hilly Haifa in British Mandatory Palestine, Safdie came of age during Israel’s fight for independence. His earliest architectural experiences involved the contrast—still very much evident today—between the sleek, modernist downtown near the port, the vaulted, domed Arab villas of the lower city, and the Bauhaus-inflected buildings higher up the hill.
Adopting [a] modernist approach, Safdie unapologetically rejected both traditionalism and postmodernism. The modernists insisted that architecture “provide housing for masses of people, not just the affluent” and regard cities “as a holistic environment, not just a locus of a few grand public buildings,” in Safdie’s estimation.
Both [the Harvard Hillel] and Terminal 3 reflect Safdie’s profound commitment to merging function and form, to making public spaces accessible and useful while elevating and inspiring them, to unifying their distinct pieces.
Returning to his native Israel [after many years in North America], Safdie helped redesign the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City, as well as the Mamilla neighborhood just outside its walls, a project that spanned more than three decades and has proved a smashing success. Mamilla has become a gorgeous gateway to the Old City, its terraces trickling down the biblical Valley of Hinnom, its combination of residences, hotels, and shopping representing, in Safdie’s words, “a rare example of a planned public space that performs as anticipated” and one of “the few places in Jerusalem where Arabs and Jews enjoy the city together.” Later, he would also redesign Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial and museum.