Moshe Safdie

Moshe Safdie

A weeklong electronic journal.
Feb. 14 1998 3:30 AM

Moshe Safdie

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       I land in New York at 7 a.m. After a brief swim and shower at a hotel, I start a major workshop design session on the Toronto airport. We are some twenty people in the room at SOM, our partners on the project. Several members of our firms are joined by engineers from Arup; the agenda is complex and overwhelming. There are planning issues on how to organize this $2-billion unified terminal to handle transborder (with the United States), domestic, and international passengers in different piers and on different airlines. Customs and immigration requirements are spelled out--not enough space!

       We review a dozen study-models of alternative roof designs, assessing structural systems, cost, and construction sequence. The complexity of overlapping design problems is something I have not experienced before, and doing it in a three-firm joint venture has its advantages but certainly creates hair-raising coordination problems.

       I leave to catch the 4:30 p.m. shuttle to Boston. At 7 p.m. there is a design presentation to the Peabody Essex Museum board. With the flight delayed one hour, I walk into the meeting just as it is starting. I have to absorb the models built from my sketches during the week. There are four alternatives. Very different. A lively discussion follows.



       Conceiving and presenting contrasting schemes to a client is a method I have developed over the years. It forces you to test what seems like the obvious or promising scheme against different programmatic or formal-realm strategies. The ensuing discussions always help define the issues more clearly and, in my experience, if one goes into such meetings with an open mind, they lead to the right choice. The discussion can rise from the level of the obvious "functional issues" to the subtleties of the character, mood, and experiential differences of the alternative designs.

       It's 10 p.m. by the time I reach home and have a late snack. My daughters are still awake and tell me about their days. I listen to Schubert's late piano sonatas. Besides architecture, there is so much going on in my head.

Moshe Safdie is an architect with offices in Boston, Jerusalem, and Toronto, and the author, most recently, of The City After the Automobile (1997).