Event | Moshe Safdie gifts his professional archive to McGill University

Celebrating a career spanning over 50 years

Safdie’s donation to his alma mater is one of the most extensive collections in Canada and features never-before-seen materials from more than 300 projects, including the thesis that inspired the iconic Habitat 67, designed as the Canada Pavilion for the 1967 World Exposition

Consisting of over 100,000 pieces, including loose sketches, sketchbooks, models, drawings and correspondence related to unbuilt and built projects across the globe, 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 – a major exhibition built for Expo 67 in Montreal, and a turning point in modern architecture.

The centerpiece of the archive will be Safdie’s personal apartment at the iconic Habitat 67 housing complex. The four-module duplex unit will serve as a resource for scholarly research, artist-in-residence programs, exhibitions, and symposia, thereby expanding the impact of the collection. 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. Habitat 67 was designated a National Heritage Building by the Quebec Ministry of Culture in 2009. 

“On behalf of the McGill community, I would like to express our gratitude to Moshe Safdie for his remarkable gift. 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.”

Suzanne Fortier, McGill Principal

Moshe Safdie noted, “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. It is therefore fitting that McGill, Quebec, and Canada will be the home of my life’s work.”

Moshe Safdie with McGill Architecture students | 23 August 2022

“Safdie’s gift of his extensive archive positions the McGill Library as a serious player among the world’s great architecture collections. This gift will deepen the Library’s collaboration with the University’s teaching and research programs, particularly at the Peter Guo-hua Fu School of Architecture. Student engagement with primary material will inspire fresh examination, perspectives, and discussion relevant to course themes.” 

C. Colleen Cook, McGill’s Trenholme Dean of Libraries

Accompanied by extensive personal correspondence, textual and audio-visual material, the archive offers multiple opportunities for students, researchers, and architects to investigate both the building projects of Moshe Safdie, and the humanistic underpinnings behind his philosophy and approach. Archived within McGill’s John Bland Canadian Architecture Collection, Safdie’s works will be the largest of the Collection’s nearly 100 fonds, with 5,000 square feet of storage space dedicated to house it. 

About the Moshe Safdie Archive

Safdie’s archive was first initiated in 1992 by John Bland, who was the Director of the McGill School of Architecture during Safdie’s student years; it became public in 1996 under the direction of Dr. Irena Murray, then Chief Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections. The archive documents the progression of Safdie’s career from his first unpublished university papers and projects through more than 50 years of architectural practice.

Published in Events on August 23, 2022

Tags: Release