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AIA Honors Moshe Safdie, Ehrlich Firm

Friday, December 12, 2014

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Architecture's highest honor of 2015 will recognize an Israeli-born Canadian-American whose "comprehensive and humane approach" has "touched millions of people and influenced generations of younger architects."

The American Institute of Architects has awarded its 2015 Gold Medal to Moshe Safdie, FAIA.

Moshe Safdie
Photo by Stephen Kelly, All photos courtesy of AIA

Moshe Safdie, FAIA, AIA Gold Medalist, has designed public and cultural spaces around the world.

The Gold Medal recognizes an individual “whose significant body of work has had a lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture,” AIA said in Wednesday’s (Dec. 10) announcement.

The organization also announced several other major awards to individuals and firms, including Rural Studio and Peter Eiseman.

The awards will be presented at the 2015 AIA National Convention, set for May 14-16 in Atlanta.

Career Details

Safdie's most significant designs include:

  • Habitat ’67, a series of 158 stacked and terraced apartments in Montreal;
  • The Mamilla Center, a dynamic gathering space in a Jerusalem; and
  • Khalsa Heritage Centre, a museum of Sikh history and culture in Punjab, India.

In his early career, the architect was mentored by Louis Kahn, another AIA Gold Medalist, whose influence shows in many of Safdie's Asian and Middle Eastern projects, AIA notes.

Marina Sands Bay
Frank Pinckers

Marina Bay Sands in Singapore is a high-density urban district that serves as a gateway to Singapore, anchors the waterfront, and provides a dynamic setting for a vibrant public life.

Safdie has also served as an educator—notably, as director of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design from 1978 to 1084—and has offices in Boston, Jerusalem and Shanghai. He has been based in Boston while remaining a citizen of Israel, Canada, and the United States.

“Moshe Safdie has continued to practice architecture in the purest and most complete sense of the word, without regard for fashion, with a hunger to follow ideals and ideas across the globe in his teaching, writing, practice and research,” Boston Society of Architects’ president Emily Grandstaff-Rice, AIA, wrote in her recommendation letter.

Mamilla Center
Michael Ronnen Safdie

The Mamilla Center, a dynamic gathering space in Jerusalem, is one of Safdie's best-known works.

AIA notes that the architect’s work “naturally melds opposing forms—fusing arcs into squares, spheres into cubes, and ovals into rectangles—to create emotional evocative architecture.”

Notable Projects

Safdie’s most notable projects include:

  • The Salt Lake City Main Public Library, a triangular glass library intersected by a crescent-shaped wall that forms an urban room and leads visitors up to an observation deck with views of the nearby Wasatch Mountains. The transparency offered by the glass library volume and the gracefully arcing wall and public space it forms evoke a dramatic contrast of enclosure and openness.

  • The Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem, a concrete prism carved into Mt. Herzl that takes visitors on a linear, narrative journey that explores the identities of individual Holocaust victims, finally giving way to an observation deck with broad views of Jerusalem below, symbolizing the collective future of the Jewish people.

  • Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, a high-density urban district that serves as a gateway to Singapore, anchors the Singapore waterfront, and provides a dynamic setting for a vibrant public life. The project’s most dramatic feature is the three-acre SkyPark, which connects the hotel’s three 55-story towers at the top, spanning from tower to tower and cantilevering 213 feet beyond. Its mixed-use space makes it nearly a city unto itself.

  • The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AR, an idyllic village of copper-clad shells containing American art. This village of forms creates a series of dams and bridges over a reservoir fed by nearby Crystal Springs, intimately revealing the natural landscape. (For more information and photos on this project, see Jill Speegle’s blog, "Vacation Planning 101: Safdie’s Riveting Museum Design in Arkansas?")

Sadfie is AIA's 71st Gold Medalist, joining the ranks of such icons as Thomas Jefferson, Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan and the late Julia Morgan—last year’s winner.

Firm Award

Ehrlich Architects, of Culver City, CA, was recognized for “fluidly melding classic California Modernist style with multicultural and vernacular design elements,” AIA said in its Architecture Firm Award announcement.

Ehrlich Architects
Bill Timmerman

Ehrlich Architects' portfolio includes Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The award "recognizes a practice that consistently has produced distinguished architecture for at least 10 years."

Founded in 1979, the Ehrlich firm covers a wide variety of program types and uses a “much richer palette of materials and textures than the typical California Modernist-influenced firm,” according to the AIA.

Ehrlich Architects
Miranda Brackett

The California-based firm was started in 1979 by Steven Ehrlich.

Ehrlich Architects is led by four diverse partners: Steven Ehrlich, FAIA; Takashi Yanai, AIA; Patricia Rhee, AIA; and Mathew Chaney, AIA.

Notable Projects

Among the firm's notable projects, as described by the AIA, are:

  • The Ahmadu Bello University Theater in Zaria, Nigeria. This 500-seat venue is composed of a ring of mud-walled pavilions, decorated with traditional bas-relief ornamentation. Local craftsmen helped with construction. The venue can be configured in both proscenium and in-the-round designs.

  • The Federal National Council Parliament Building Complex in Abu Dhabi, UAE. This symbol for a burgeoning Middle East democracy melds Arabic design language with contemporary form and technological advances to create meaning, maximum functionality and environmental sustainability.

  • The 700 Palms Residence in Los Angeles uses Corten steel, copper, and stucco to create a rugged approach to California Modernism, dissolving barriers between indoors and outdoors with glass, alternately boxy and brawny, light and open.

  • Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. A harbinger of downtown Phoenix's redevelopment, the firm’s first design-build project used BIM, fast-track and integrated project delivery to deliver great value to the public in less than two years.

Ehrlich Architects is the 52nd Firm Award recipient. Predecessors include Eskew + Dumez + Ripple, VJAA, BNIM, Pugh + Scarpa, and Kieran Timberlake.

Educator Honored

Peter Eiseman, FAIA, will received the AIA/ACSA (Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture) Topaz Medallion award, which recognizes influential, longtime architect educators.

Eisemen has enjoyed long associations with Princeton, Harvard, Cooper Union and Yale, where he has been a full-time professor since 2005.

Over 60 years of teaching, his influence has touched generations of architects: Tod Williams, FAIA; Daniel Libeskind, AIA; Shigeru Ban, Hon. FAIA; and former Topaz recipient Harrison Fraker, Assoc. AIA, all studied under him.

Social Commitment

The Rural Studio, a Newbern, AL-based design/build program within Auburn’s architecture school, will receive the 2015 Whitney M. Young Jr. Award for embodying the profession’s social mandate through a range of commitments.

The award is named after the Civil Rights–Era head of the Urban League, who confronted—head-on—the AIA’s absence of socially progressive advocacy at the 1968 AIA National Convention.

Rural Studio was established in 1993 to address the dire needs of one of the South’s poorest regions. Its projects include homes and community buildings, such as the 2004 Newbern Fire Station—the town’s first new public building in 110 years.

The “studio’s projects prove that an authentic conversation with the residents, no matter how unconventional the client, can yield ambitious architecture,” AIA said.

Sustainable Design

The 2015 Edward C. Kemper Award goes to Edward Mazria, AIA, for catalyzing the profession to address climate change through the design of decarbonized, sustainable and resilient built environments.

Jamey Stillings

Edward Mazria, AIA, has won the AIA's 2015 Edward C. Kemper Award, for his contributions to the field of architecture and service to the AIA.

Named for AIA’s first executive director, the annual award honors an architect who has contributed significantly to the profession through service to the AIA.

During his 40-year career, Mazria has been at the center of the sustainable design or green building movement, pushing a grassroots revolution to get stakeholders to see how buildings and infrastructure affect the environment, why architecture and planning matter; and the key role architects must play in driving change, according to the AIA.


Tagged categories: AIA Gold Medal; American Institute of Architects (AIA); Architects; Architecture; Asia Pacific; Awards and honors; Color + Design; Design; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Latin America; North America

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