Moshe Safdie, the architect of Sri Lanka’s paradigmatic high rise edifice Altair, has been named the Laureate in Architecture by the jury committee for the 2019 Wolf Prize, considered the second most important in the world after the Nobel Prize.
To be presented by the President of Israel Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin in the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) in Jerusalem in May, the celebrated Wolf Prize honours Mr Safdie for “a career motivated by the social concerns of architecture and formal experimentation.”
Announcing the prize, worth US$ 100,000, the jury said: “Over a long and distinguished career spanning 50 years, Moshe Safdie has produced a body of work of great originality and artistry in the field of architecture and urbanism. The projects undertaken by his architectural studio consistently seek experimentation and can be understood as an evolving form of research. He is also a distinguished educator and in his numerous publications he has articulated a clear and coherent position as an academic and critic.”
A citizen of Israel, Canada and the United States, Mr Safdie is an architect, urban planner, theorist and author. He was born in Haifa in 1938 and relocated to Canada with his family in 1953. He graduated from McGill University in 1961 with a degree in architecture. After apprenticing with Louis I. Kahn in Philadelphia, Safdie returned to Montreal to oversee the master plan for the 1967 World Exhibition. In 1964 he established his own firm to realize Habitat 67, an adaptation of his thesis at McGill, which was the central feature of the World’s Fair and a ground-breaking design in the history of architecture.
Moshe Safdie’s more recent work includes Marina Bay Sands — the new icon of Singapore, Jewel Changi Airport — the stunning mixed-use development due to open in 2019, the Kauffman Centre for the Performing Arts in Kansas City — rated one of the 15 most spectacular concert halls of the world, the Crystal Bridge Museum of American Art in Arkansas, the Khalsa Heritage Centre in Punjab, the headquarters of the US Institute of Peace in Washington DC, Lester B. Pearson Airport, Toronto, the Yad Vasham Holocaust History Museum in Jerusalem, Cairnhill Condominiums in Singapore, the Ford Centre for the Performing Arts in Vancouver and the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.
Wolf Prize winners are selected by international professional judging committees of three members of renowned experts in their fields. Each committee is appointed for one year only. The judges’ names, as well as their deliberations, remain confidential.
Since 1978, five Wolf Prizes have been awarded annually, four in the sciences and one in the arts. The prize is awarded to renowned scientists and artists for their unique contribution “for the sake of humanity and for friendly relations between nations, without distinction of nationality, race, colour, religion, sex or political outlook.” The areas of prizes in the sciences are agriculture, chemistry, mathematics, physics and medicine. The areas of prizes in art are music, architecture, painting and sculpture.
Adjudged the Best Condominium in Asia for Architectural Design at the 2018 Asia Real Estate Summit (ARES), Altair is Sri Lanka’s most distinctive and instantly recognised high-rise. A one-of-its-kind development in South Asia in terms of architectural design, structural engineering, and living experience, Altair comprises of two tower blocks, a 63-storey sloping tower which leans into a taller, 68-storey vertical tower. Acknowledged as a new standard in contemporary living in Sri Lanka, the Altair building has already brought a new dimension in aesthetics to Colombo’s skyline and offers its 400 apartments spectacular views of the Beira Lake, the Indian Ocean and the city of Colombo. The development’s 1.5 million square feet of high-end eco-friendly living space is supported by 40,000 square feet of up-market retail space.
Photo caption – Moshe Safdie and the Altair building in Colombo