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Moshe Safdie and Richard Saul Wurman on the architecture of change

Center for the Arts hosts Architect Moshe Safdie in conversation with
Richard Saul Wurman, TED founder.

“Build­ings are living organ­isms,” said world-​​renowned archi­tect Moshe Safdie. “As soon as you finish them, they’re bound to change.”

Change—both phys­ical and technological—served as the under­lying theme of Safdie’s con­ver­sa­tion with long­time friend and fellow archi­tect Richard Saul Wurman on Wednesday evening in Northeastern’s Vis­itor Center. Pre­sented by the university’s Center for the Arts, the event marked the second in a series of three public con­ver­sa­tions between Wurman and some of the world’s most fas­ci­nating doers, thinkers, and intel­lec­tual leaders.

Wurman—the cre­ator of the TED con­fer­ences on “ideas worth spreading” and Northeastern’s inau­gural Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of the Prac­tice in the Col­lege of Arts, Media, and Design—began his 90-​​minute dis­cus­sion with Safdie by calling him “one of the great archi­tects in the world today.” Then he showed the audi­ence of about 100 stu­dents, fac­ulty, and staff a slideshow of two of Safdie’s most recent designs—Marina Bay Sands, Singapore’s second inte­grated resort and casino, and Crystal Bridges Museum of Amer­ican Art, a 217,000-square-foot facility in Ben­tonville, Ark.

According to the Archi­tec­tural Record, the museum’s cen­ter­piece is a “vast room that rises in a graceful arc of lam­i­nated wood-​​roof beams,” the mate­rial for which derived from Arkansas white pines.

Safdie said, “The whole idea of the building was to be able to expe­ri­ence art in nature.” In Wurman’s view, the museum is a mas­ter­piece, one “you can walk through without get­ting lost.”

Later in the evening, the con­ver­sa­tion turned to Louis Kahn, the late Amer­ican archi­tect for whom Safdie served as an appren­tice in the 1960s. Would Kahn have appre­ci­ated Safdie’s design of Crystal Bridges and Marina Bay Sands?

Wurman said, “He should have liked every­thing about Crystal Bridges,” while Safdie said, “The Sin­ga­pore project was a little too sen­sa­tional and sen­suous for him to have iden­ti­fied with.”

What about Habitat 67, the modern com­mu­nity and housing com­plex in Mon­treal for which Safdie grew famous some 45 years ago? “In my inno­cence, I thought he would have been a great cham­pion of that building,” Safdie lamented, “but he wasn’t.”

In the Q-​​and-​​A, one stu­dent asked Safdie to dis­cuss the evo­lu­tion of change orders—work that is added to or deleted from the orig­inal scope of a con­tract. In response, Safdie noted that the advent of computer-​​aided design pro­grams cat­alyzed con­trac­tors to request changes in the 11th hour of the building process. “You can make changes faster on com­puters than you could 50 years ago, when archi­tects drew every­thing by hand in a highly labor-​​intensive process,” he explained. In the end, Wurman said, “con­trac­tors know they can profit on change orders.”

Wurman will host North­eastern Pres­i­dent Joseph E. Aoun in the final install­ment of the series on Wednesday, Dec. 4. In October, he hosted David Gallo, an Amer­ican oceanog­ra­pher and director of spe­cial projects at the Woods Hole Oceano­graphic Institution.

– See more at: http://www.northeastern.edu/news/2013/11/safdiewurman/#sthash.6i8qeqRE.dpuf