(b Haifa, Palestine [now Israel], July 14, 1938).
Canadian–Israeli architect. When he was 15 his family moved to Canada where he later studied at McGill University school of architecture (1955–61), Montreal, under the guidance of H. P. D. Van Ginkel. In his thesis, Three Dimensional Modular Building System of 1960 (recalling Le Corbusier’s ‘plug-in concept’), he clearly drew on his early childhood experience combined with the ideas of modern architecture. During his apprenticeship with Louis Kahn in Philadelphia (1962–3), Safdie was impressed by Kahn’s integral use of composition, building materials, space and daylight to create structures that monumentalized the characteristics of regional forms. Also in Philadelphia he had his first introduction to the work of D’Arcy Thompson and his morphological theories of vernacular architecture. Both of these philosophies profoundly influenced Safdie’s future works.
Safdie saw the design of living spaces as a problem of fusing the spontaneous, unconscious yet individual and environmentally integrated architecture of traditional cultures with the modern need for the industrialization of buildings for dense population centres. He wanted to provide a way of mass-producing living spaces that could grow and change with the needs of the people while retaining the individual nature of a small community. He found his solution in nature, which builds with individual units (molecules) to create individual living spaces (habitats) on a mass-production scale (environment) that can expand and change to the individual’s needs (evolution). Safdie’s first architectural success, ...