The Israeli architect, urban designer and educator was in the country last week for the 2017 National Conference organized by the Sri Lanka Institute of Architects. To put it simply, Safdie is the brain behind most architectural marvels that get people picking their brains thinking ‘how’.
“To set the record straight, I have never built anything on the West Bank,” Safdie said, before talking about his work. He emphasized that he believed in a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That was however all he was willing to speak about on politics.
Safdie said that he thinks Sri Lanka is a beautiful country with a rich, elaborate culture. He did not forget to say how much he admires legendary Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa whom he called an enigma-like architect Arthur Erickson.
“I have been a keen follower of Bawa’s work for decades,” said Safdie, when asked about his thoughts on the industry. He said that he thinks the local fraternity has potential and is dynamic. Speaking about his previous work, Safdie said that his approach to designs have always been a ‘human and comprehensive approach’.
Speaking of Altair in Colombo and Colombo in general, Safdie said that the city is developing at a rapid pace because unlike five years ago when the project initiated, many projects of similar scale have started in all parts of Colombo. He believed that Sri Lanka was on its way to emerging as a vibrant city in the region and emphasized on the importance of not compromising on the country’s uniqueness and legacy in the process.
He said that sustainability is a key area in his designs. In the case of The Jewel, he said that he has tried to ‘bring nature indoors’ and give people a one-of-a-kind shopping experience and a chance to be at one with nature and greenery which is not abundant in Singapore as it is in Sri Lanka.
Safdie is the recipient of several accolades including a Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects, Mt. Scopus Award for Humanitarianism from Jerusalem, Richard Neutra Award for Professional Excellence and a Gold Medal from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada.