Moshe Safdie: 5 signature masterpieces from the iconic architect

From the new Changi Airport’s Jewel shopping mall extension to Marina Bay Sands, Israeli-born Moshe Safdie is the architect behind some of the world’s most iconic buildings

Apr 23, 2019 | By LUXUO

Singapore’s close relationship with Israel is an open secret but suffice it to say, the country’s relationship with one Israeli in particular is especially intimate. No, we’re not talking about Yussein Nasir of Nas Daily, we are talking about world renowned architect Moshe Safdie. The 81 year old US-based Israeli architect is not just responsible for Marina Bay Sands, but also the recently opened Changi Jewel. Safdie’s style of architecture is also represented in many of the condominium developments here.

Moshe Safdie: 5 signature masterpieces from the iconic architect

Raised in Canada, the multi-award-winning Safdie has his architectural marvels all around the world for all to admire. From Changi Airport’s new Jewel shopping extension to Marina Bay Sands, Moshe Safdie made his debut in the architecture scene with Habitat 67 in 1967. His deft ability to design for urban environments showcases much of the urban planner’s architectural leitmotif. Safdie is an ardent advocate of connected buildings with open spaces, utilising the external environment’s natural beauty and drawing it indoors.

1. Habitat 67, Montreal

Safdie had an early start in his career when at age 30,  he unveiled his first architectural opus-  Habitat 67,  as his master’s thesis. Since then, his first project has achieved international acclaim and recognition. The Montreal’s aesthetic uniqueness lay in the fact that the world had never before seen a residential complex of stacked units in such a manner. Safdie’s groundbreaking work created a new housing typology that is both effective and site adaptable. The design on Habitat 67 has also inspired AD100 architect Bjarke Ingels of BIG to design a similar form in Toronto. 

Containing 158 apartments, the complex was believed to illustrate the new lifestyle people would live in increasingly crowded cities in the world. According to Safdie, many of the original occupants still live in the building, and the architect has also kept a residence for himself there. From one glance, this complex does not look like it was built in 1967. 

In Singapore, a development reminiscent of  Habitat 67 can be found. Sky Habitat created a buzz in the region by living up to its claim of “terraced houses in the sky” –  The two residential towers in Singapore’s Bishan neighbourhood contain a total of 509 apartments, each with its own balcony overlooking a swimming pool and gardens slotted in the central void.

2. Jewel Changi Airport, Singapore

Jewel in progress

Redefining airport experiences, Safdie’s recent $1.3 billion project has all eyes on Singapore. The world-renowned architect and his firm first had to submit ideas in a bidding process to CapitaLand, which would pick the eventual winner. “As I started to sketch the design ideas, we liked the idea of a fully transparent roof over the building,” says Safdie. The sketch of a Jurrasic-like garden with the largest indoor waterfall in the world helped the architectural firm win the bid.

“I wanted to explore a new kind of urban space, a space you go to as a matter of course, because you need to shop, because you’re flying out somewhere, and yet it’s a garden — somewhere that says ‘let’s rethink what the public realm is, let’s rethink what it is to shop,'” Safdie told CNN Travel last year.

Though many architects focus on its exterior of the building, Safdie’s focus turned to its beauty within the 135,700 sq m development. Featuring the world’s tallest waterfall, five-story garden with walking trails and over 280 retail stores and F&B outlets, Jewel changes the perception of how airports should be. With the new addition of Jewel, Changi Airport is expected to hold the “World’s Best Airport” again. “I do predict now, though, that Jewel will become an icon for Singapore no less than MBS,” he told reporters on Friday (April 12), ahead of Jewel Changi Airport’s official opening on Wednesday.

3. Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Valued at $8 billion today, Marina Bay Sands needs no introduction. Recognised as an architectural icon in Singapore, this building has transformed Singapore’s skyline and gaming landscape. The internationally-acclaimed octogenarian was inspired by card decks and designed the 38-hectare multi-purpose resort complete with three 55-story hotel towers, casino, convention center, museum and shops. At its opening in 2010, Marina Bay Sands was the world’s most expensive stand-alone casino, featuring 500 tables, 1,600 slot machines, and priced at around US$6.6 billion.

However, Safde is not done with Marina Bay Sands. He was recruited to design the fourth tower at Marina Bay Sands which will be a separate hotel with 1,000 suites, a sky roof, a swimming pool, a 15,000-seater amphitheatre and a signature restaurant as part of Resort World’s billion dollar project expansion. He revealed the new tower will consist of “two curvilinear planes, wrapping around each other” and will be “crowned by a multi-level SkyPark amenity”, in contrast to the linear SkyPark of the existing property.

4. Crystal Bridges Museum of America Art, Arkansas

Owned by the Walton family and completed in 2010, the art museum functions as a place for the community and as an iconic cultural destination. The contemporary structures designed by Safdie are meant to provide plenty of views of the surrounding environment and bringing people, art and nature together in one building. Dramatic curves of the museum, use of windows, and key placement of open and green spaces easily reflects Safdie’s architecture style.

5. Raffles City, Chongqing

The $3.8 billion infrastructure was inspired by traditional Chinese sailing vessels, a nod to Chongqing’s past as a trading post. Recognised as a symbol of strong ties between China and Singapore, Raffles City Chongqing will be Singapore’s largest single development in China at $.9 billion.

Resembling Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands, ‘The Crystal’ sky bridge, designed by Safdie Architects, measures 300 meters in length, 32.5 meters in width, 26.5 meters in height, and links six of the eight skyscrapers 250 meters high up in the Chongqing sky. ‘The Crystal’ sky bridge includes a swimming pool, observation desk and retail space.

The opening of Raffles City will join the list of the genius architect’s 8 other major openings around the world including Jewel Changi Airport and Serena del Mar in Columbia. With the success Safdie brings, it is no surprise when he was named the laureate for the 2019 Wolf Prize for Architecture.



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