Man of the world: Moshe Safdie’s ’Global Citizen’ opens at the National Academy

Moshe Safdie's 'Global Citizen' opens at the National Academy

Salt Lake City public library
Pictured: Salt Lake City Public Library. Photography courtesy of Timothy Hursley
(Image credit: Timothy Hursley)

The title of the National Academy Museum’s current exhibition, 'Global Citizen: The Architecture of Moshe Safdie (opens in new tab)' refers less to the jet-set ways of an architect overseeing major projects around the world (although that is certainly the case) and more to Safdie’s nuanced appreciation for sites, wherever they happen to fall on the map. Born and raised in British Mandate Palestine in 1938, and later to become a Canadian, then an American immigrant, Safdie has long transcended geography, as the projects in 'Global Citizen' demonstrate. 

Among the exhibition’s 200 objects (comprising sketches, scale models, photographs and films), a series of Safdie’s notebooks, laid open in vitrines, provide a telling glimpse into his iterative and self-critical process. 'About 50 percent of them I’ve done on flights,' he says, acknowledging the global nature of his practice. 

Tracing its way back to Habitat 67, one of the hallmarks of his career has been a focus on social and environmental concerns. 'It’s the foundation of my beliefs, both as a citizen and an architect,' he says. Much of this comes across in the exhibition, whether it’s the way the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas integrates into the landscape, for example, or the way his residential projects ensure access to public and private gardens. As he says in the exhibition’s wall text, 'every line drawn and every design created has economic, ecological, social, behavioral, psychological, and spiritual impact'.

His firm regularly sponsors a design research fellowship aimed at addressing some of the contemporary city’s most intractable problems. Next up on the agenda: the erosion of truly public spaces. As he cautions, 'Too much of the public realm is now built and maintained privately.' He roots this concern for the public domain in his life experiences around the world, citing the souks and bazaars of his childhood, and a 1953 trip through Europe that took him through what he calls 'some of the greatest public spaces – the piazzas of Italy, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and Trafalgar Square – before the car completely took over'.

The exhibition, designed by Nader Tehrani of the design firm NADAAA, has been updated since its 2010 launch at the National Gallery of Canada (a building Safdie designed). Next year it will travel to Boston, a city that the architect, the archetypal global citizen, calls home. 

Salt Lake City public library interior

Pictured: interior shot of Salt Lake City Public Library. Photography courtesy of Timothy Hursley

(Image credit: Timothy Hursley)

Rooftop of Sky Habitat

Pictured: from the rooftop of ’Sky Habitat’, Singapore. Photography courtesy of Jonathon Choe 

(Image credit: Jonathon Choe )

Exterior of Sky Habitat

Exterior shot of ’Sky Habitat’, Singapore. Photography courtesy of Safdie Architects

(Image credit: Safdie Architects)

Mamilla Centre at night

Pictured: night view of the Mamilla Centre, Jerusalem. Photography courtesy of Timothy Hursley

(Image credit: Timothy Hursley)

People walking in corridor of Mamilla centre

The multi-layered retail corridor of the Mamilla Centre, Jerusalem. Photography courtesy of Ardon Bar Hama

(Image credit: Ardon Bar Hama)

Marina Bay sands building

Pictured: view of Marina Bay Sands from the water, Singapore. Photography courtesy of Timothy Hursley

(Image credit: Timothy Hursley)

ArtScience Musuem, Singapore

Pictured: Marina Bay Sands, ArtScience Musuem, Singapore. Photography courtesy of MBS Visual Media

(Image credit: MBS Visual Media)

National Art Museum of China

Exterior of the National Art Museum of China. Photography courtesy of Safdie Architects

(Image credit: Safdie Architects)

Interior of National Gallery of Canada

Interior of National Gallery of Canada. Photography courtesy of Timonthy Hursley 

(Image credit: Timonthy Hursley )

Prism at Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum

A view from the end of a Prism at Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, Israel. Photography courtesy of Timothy Hursley 

(Image credit: Timothy Hursley )

Hebrew Union College, Israel

Courtyard view of the Hebrew Union College, Israel. Photography courtesy of Michal Ronnen Safdie

(Image credit: Michal Ronnen Safdie)

Skirball Cultural Centre, USA

Taper Courtyard at Skirball Cultural Centre, USA. Photography courtesy of Timothy Hursley

(Image credit: Timothy Hursley)

Skirball Cultural Centre, USA.

Founders Courtyard at Skirball Cultural Centre, USA. Photography courtesy of Timothy Hursley 

(Image credit: Timothy Hursley )

Raffles City Chongqing, China

View from the river by Raffles City Chongqing, China. Photography courtesy of Safdie Architects

(Image credit: Safdie Architects)

Central retail gallery in Raffles City

View along the central retail gallery in Raffles City Chongqing, China. Photography courtesy of Safdie Architects

(Image credit: Safdie Architects)

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, USA. Photography courtesy of Timothy Hursley

(Image credit: Timothy Hursley)

Interior of the Crystal Bridges 20th century gallery

Interior of the Crystal Bridges 20th century gallery, USA. Photography courtesy of Timothy Hursley 

(Image credit: Timothy Hursley)

Aerial view of Jewel Changi Airport, Singapore

Aerial view of Jewel Changi Airport, Singapore. Photography courtesy of Jewel at Changi Airport Development

(Image credit: Jewel at Changi Airport Development)

Forest Valley inside Jewel Changi Airport

The Forest Valley at Jewel Changi Airport, Singapore. Photography courtesy of Changi Airport Development

(Image credit: Changi Airport Development)

INFORMATION

'Global Citizen: The Architecture of Moshe Safdie' is on view until 10 January 2016

ADDRESS

National Academy Museum
1083 Fifth Avenue (at 89th Street)
New York, NY 10128

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