Moshe Safdie: For Everyone A Garden

Moshe Safdie reflects on the foundational principles of his design philosophy – that architecture should be profoundly humane and connected to nature.

Moshe Safdie is an architect, urban planner, educator, theorist, and author. He burst onto the world scene with his celebrated Habitat 67 design at Montreal’s Expo 67 and his work has been acclaimed around the world ever since. During his career spanning more than 50 years, Safdie has continued to explore the principles of socially responsible design and integrating nature and the built environment. 

Safdie’s wide scope of projects include cultural, educational and civic institutions; neighbourhoods and public parks; housing; mixed-use urban centres and airports; as well as master plans for existing communities and entirely new cities. His projects can be found in North and South America, the Middle East and throughout Asia.

Shifting Vision spoke to Moshe Safdie in late 2021 about his relationship with nature and how his connection with the garden has evolved over time in his architectural practice. This film was created together with Safdie to celebrate Earth Day 2022.

‘What is a garden?’ Safdie asked.  

‘Tamed nature — we choose the plants and we arrange them and always associate it with pleasure and beauty and well-being.’

‘My first experience as an architect was about developing domestic space. I came to the conclusion that given the choice, most people would choose a house rather than an apartment and that the main reason was the privacy and the outdoor space that it provided. Maybe some of my observations were naive, but it's about not wanting to be confined and wanting to have a piece of nature with you,’  Safdie said.

Habitat 67, Montreal. Courtesy of Safdie Architects. Photo: Thimothy Hursley

Safdie explained that further in his career, when confronted with working at the larger urban scale, he wondered:  ‘How do you create the gardens in a city?

‘Going onto the public realm, the urban and the marketplace are merged into a singular experience. It shows that this idea of the “agora” or the “plaza” as separate from the garden or park doesn't need to be the case. There can be a singular interweaving experience.

Qorner Tower, Quito. Courtesy of Safdie Architects.

‘When I coined the motto “for everyone a garden” I was thinking of housing and Habitat and the essential idea that every house should have a garden. As my practice diversified I realised that the idea of the garden goes well beyond the home. It’s true of a classroom, or a school, of hospitals, airports.

‘The more I practise architecture, the more I realise I’m in equal parts an architect and a landscape architect.’

Special thanks: Safdie Architects