Photo by Stephen Kelly.
Moshe Safdie is an architect, urban planner, educator, theorist, and author. In a rare instance of a single architect overseeing multiple expansions of his master plan, Safdie designed all four construction phases of the Skirball's fifteen-acre campus. The Skirball Cultural Center was Safdie's first cultural project in the United States.
"From the very beginning, Moshe Safdie was a vital member of the Skirball Cultural Center's planning team, contributing as much to the shaping of our institutional mission as to the buildings that give it form," said Uri D. Herscher, Founding President and CEO of the Skirball Cultural Center. "To the Skirball's aspirations, Moshe has given voice and character. Such a gift transcends the realm of architecture; it speaks to, and lifts high, the human spirit."
Embracing a comprehensive and humane design philosophy, Safdie is committed to architecture that supports and enhances a project's program; that is informed by the geographic, social, and cultural elements that define a place; and that responds to human needs and aspirations. Over the course of his fifty-year career, Safdie has completed a wide range of projects around the world, including cultural, educational, and civic institutions; neighborhoods and public parks; mixed-use urban centers and airports; and master plans for existing communities and entirely new cities. In addition to the Skirball, many of his firm's buildings have become beloved regional and national landmarks, including Exploration Place Science Center, Wichita, Kansas; Salt Lake City Public Library, Salt Lake City, Utah; Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts; the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Canada; and Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, Jerusalem, Israel.
Recent openings include the Khalsa Heritage Memorial Complex, the national museum of the Sikh people in India; the United States Institute of Peace Headquarters in Washington, D.C.; the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri; Marina Bay Sands in Singapore; and the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. Based in Boston, Safdie Architects also has branch offices in Toronto, Jerusalem, Singapore, and Shanghai.
Safdie has been the recipient of numerous awards, honorary degrees, and civil honors. In 2015, he was awarded the Gold Medal by the American Institute of Architects.
The Architecture of the Skirball
The design of the Skirball Cultural Center is rooted in a profound respect for the land and a desire to seamlessly weave together the buildings and the surrounding landscape. In response to the site's steep and complex topography at the base of the Santa Monica Mountains, Safdie designed the campus as a series of building clusters and a network of outdoor courtyards, arcades, and landscaped ravines positioned longitudinally within the hills.
Through four separate construction phases, Safdie designed the indoor spaces—including the museum galleries, conference centers and classrooms, and multipurpose auditoriums—and the outdoor spaces to integrate the buildings with the natural beauty of the site. The buildings' subdued palette of pink Tadoussac granite, recessed glazing, majestic vaulted ceilings, and discreet planted areas all draw the garden setting to the foreground and collectively create a contemplative visitor experience.
Further integrating the campus with the natural surroundings, the buildings are topped by stainless steel vaulted roofs that reflect the dynamic southern California sky. A rich and diverse Mediterranean landscape, including an olive grove, surrounds the more public areas of the campus and provides visitors with a unique space to experience the close relationship of nature and culture in harmony.