Moshe Safdie Wins 2015 AIA Gold Medal

Safdie has been awarded the American Institute of Architects’ highest award for his evocative, geometric work.

Courtesy of AIA

The American Institute of Architects has awarded its highest annual honor, the AIA Gold Medal, to Israeli-born architect Moshe Safdie. The 76-year-old architect, who apprenticed under legendary 20th-century architect Louis Kahn (himself a Gold Medal recipient), is perhaps most famous for his first solo project, Habitat 67. Safdie designed the futuristic residential complex of 158 stacked concrete units as part of his master’s thesis at McGill University. It was eventually built as a pavilion for Expo 67 in Montreal.


Other notable projects by Safdie’s firm–which is based in Boston and also has offices in Jerusalem, Toronto, Singapore, and Shanghai–include the Salt Lake City Public Library, the Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem, and the Marina Bay Sands mixed-use megastructure in Singapore (a theater, museum, hotel, and convention center rolled into one complex).

Safdie, who moved to Montreal with his family from Israel in 1953, is a citizen of Israel, Canada, and the United States. In 1995, he received the Gold Medal of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada.

Flickr user Julia Peterson

In a letter nominating Safdie for the AIA prize, Emily Grandstaff-Rice*, president of the Boston Society of Architects, wrote that he “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.” With a flair for bold geometric forms that echo the influence of his mentor, Kahn, Safdie is an architect’s architect, a designer who has built dozens of elegant, thoughtful, but not necessarily starchitect-making projects all over the world. (His latest, an addition to Singapore’s Changi Airport, began construction only this week.)

The AIA Gold Medal honors individuals whose work has had lasting influence on the architectural world. Last year’s award went posthumously to Julia Morgan, the first woman to receive the honor in the award’s seven-decade history. (A new change in the rules allowing two individual architects to share the award went into effect in 2014, but this was apparently not Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi’s year.) Safdie is the 71st architect to receive the prize, which will be awarded at the organization’s annual conference next summer in Atlanta.

*An earlier version of this article quoted from a press release that misattributed Safdie’s nomination letter to Mike Davis, former president of the Boston Society of Architects. The nomination letter was written by Emily Grandstaff-Rice, current president of the BSA.

About the author

Shaunacy Ferro is a Brooklyn-based writer covering architecture, urban design and the sciences. She's on a lifelong quest for the perfect donut