Architect secures legacy with historic archive donation

Iconic Canadian architect Moshe Safdie has donated his professional archive, including his personal apartment, to McGill University.

A bird's eye view shows the iconic Habitat 67 building in Montreal.

An aerial shot shows Habitat 67 in Montreal. Moshe Safdie’s personal apartment in the building is part of his archive donation to McGill University. – Safdie Architects

Key Takeaways:

  • Moshe Safdie’s donation to McGill University includes more than 100,000 pieces and his personal residence at the Habitat 67 building in Montreal.
  • Officials at McGill called it one of the most influential and important architectural archives in the world.
  • Safdie enrolled in the school’s six-year architectural degree program in 1955.

The Whole Story:

Safdie hopes his residence and archive can remain a resource for his Alma Mater and the public.

“I have always valued the great education I received at McGill that has guided me through my professional life. Moreover, Canada has embraced and supported me, making possible the realization of several seminal projects,” said Safdie. “It is therefore fitting that McGill, Quebec, and Canada will be the home of my life’s work.”

Safdie’s vast archive includes more than 100,000 pieces, including loose sketches, sketchbooks, models, drawings and correspondence related to unbuilt and built projects across the globe.

According to the university, Safdie’s collection represents one of the most extensive and thorough individual collections of architectural documentation in Canada. Included is the original model and master copy of his McGill undergraduate thesis, ‘A Case for City Living’, which inspired his design for the Habitat 67 residence.

84-year-old architect Moshe Safdie hopes his massive archive donation to McGill University can be of use to future generations.

The university stated that the residence was a major exhibition built for Expo 67 in Montreal and marked a turning point in modern architecture.

The centerpiece of the archive will be Safdie’s personal apartment at Habitat 67 housing complex. The school stated that the four-module duplex unit will serve as a resource for scholarly research, artist-in-residence programs, exhibitions and symposia. Fondation Habitat 67, a non-profit foundation, will collaborate with McGill on the preservation and maintenance of the apartment as part of its mandate to promote the property for public educational activities.

The complex was designated a National Heritage Building by the Quebec Ministry of Culture in 2009. Safdie’s 10th floor unit, which initially belonged to the commissioner of Expo 67, was fully restored to its original condition in 2017 to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Habitat 67, and in conjunction with a major exhibition of Safdie Architects’ recent work at UQAM, entitled Habitat 67 vers l’avenir: The Shape of Things to Come.

“On behalf of the McGill community, I would like to express our gratitude to Moshe Safdie for his remarkable gift,” said Suzanne Fortier, McGill principal. “This is a historic moment for McGill. One of the most influential and important architectural archives in the world, from one of our most celebrated graduates, will forever be a part of our University.”


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