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Alternative Realities: 7 Radical Buildings That Could-Have-Been

In It’s A Wonderful Life the film’s protagonist George Bailey, facing a crisis of faith, is visited by his guardian angel, and shown an alternate reality where he doesn’t exist. The experience gives meaning to George’s life, showing him his own importance to others. With the increasing scale of design competitions these days, architectural “could-have-beens” are piling up in record numbers, and just as George Bailey's sense of self was restored by seeing his alternate reality, hypothesizing about alternative outcomes in architecture is a chance to reflect on our current architectural moment.

Today marks the one-year-anniversary of the opening of Phase 3 of the High Line. While New Yorkers and urbanists the world over have lauded the success of this industrial-utility-turned-urban-oasis, the park and the slew of other urban improvements it has inspired almost happened very differently. Although we have come to know and love the High Line of Diller Scofidio + Renfro and James Corner Field Operations, in the original ideas competition four finalists were chosen and the alternatives show stark contrasts in how things might have shaped up.

On this key date for one of the most crucial designs of this generation, we decided to look back at some of the most important competitions of the last century to see how things might have been different.

Joseph Marzella's second-place design for the Sydney Opera House. Image via The Daily Mail Designs for the Chicago Tribune Tower by Adolf Loos (left) and Bruno Taut, Walter Gunther, and Kurz Schutz (right). Image via Design for the High Line by Zaha Hadid Architects with Balmori Associates, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP and studio MDA. Image via University of Adelaide on Cargo Collective Moshe Safdie's design for the Centre Pompidou. Image Courtesy of Safdie Architects

Images Released of Moshe Safdie's First New York Project

Images of Moshe Safdie's first New York project has been released. Planned to rise on a Manhattan site at West 30th Street, between Broadway and 5th Avenue, the 64-story mixed-use tower will feature a limestone base that compliments and serves its historic neighbor: the Marble Collegiate Church, one of the Collegiate Churches’ five ministries.

The building "will be distinguished by its vertical massing, which breaks down the scale of the tower into a series of three-story-high, offset projections," says Safdie Architects. "The offset projections also provide energy efficiency by self-shading the tower’s facade, further enhanced by additional sun shading at the south facade."

Spotlight: Moshe Safdie

Theorist, architect and educator, Moshe Safdie (July 14, 1938), made his first mark on architecture with his masters thesis, where the idea for Habitat 67 originated. Catapulted to attention, Safdie has used his ground-breaking first project to develop a reputation as a prolific creator of cultural buildings, translating his radicalism into a dramatic yet sensitive style that has become popular across the world. Increasingly working in Asia and the Middle East, Safdie puts an emphasis on integrating green and public spaces into his modernist designs.

Apply Now: Safdie Architects Announces 2015 Research Fellowship

Safdie Architects’ 2015 Research Fellowship will center on the theme of “dense urbanism,” and the ways in which the field of architecture can rethink its approach to vital issues such as materiality, construction, environmental conditions, and the demographic realities of rapidly growing populations. This year, Moshe Safdie and his team invite exceptional individuals to attack the challenges of the contemporary urban landscape head-on by proposing new tools and solutions to create a better functioning and humane city. Accepted candidates will spend one year in residence at Safdie Architects’ Boston office, during which they will receive support from the practice and have access to the firm’s resources and consultants. 

Safdie Architects Release Final Designs for National Medal of Honor Museum

Images have been released of Safdie Architects' design for the new National Medal of Honor Museum in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. The commission, awarded to Safdie following a national search in October, will honor the men and women who "served and sacrificed in defense of the US" and have received the nation's highest military award - the Medal of Honor - from the Civil War to the present.

AD Interviews: Moshe Safdie / Safdie Architects

During this year’s World Architecture Festival (WAF) held in Singapore, we had the chance to talk with keynote speaker Moshe Safdie. Standing inside the Marina Bay Sands, a massive mixed-use project by Safdie Architects and an example of the firm’s ongoing research on density, Safdie talked to us about Asia's urban environment and the challenges of working there. As the world's growth is happening in dense areas, this subject is utterly important, and Safdie has proven that these kind of mega-urbanism projects can be functionally integrated into the city. “Working in Asia at the intensity and scale that we do has been a paradigm shift for our practice because much of our work in the United States and Israel and elsewhere in recent years has been focused on institutions - on libraries, museums, airports - here we are involved with urban place, mixed-use mostly, extremely dense, working for the private sector, and having to reconcile the market forces with the architectural environmental demands, which is no mean task,” he said. 

AD Interviews: Moshe Safdie / Safdie Architects AD Interviews: Moshe Safdie / Safdie Architects AD Interviews: Moshe Safdie / Safdie Architects AD Interviews: Moshe Safdie / Safdie Architects

Safdie Architects Design Glass "Air Hub" for Singapore Changi Airport

Today, Safdie Architects revealed plans for a glass, spherical “air hub” that will be built at the center of the Singapore’s Changi Airport, the world’s sixth busiest airport. The “jeweled” biodome was presented as a “new paradigm” for international airports that will boost Singapore’s stopover appeal and become a “lifestyle destination” for both travelers and local residents.

Learn more about the design and a word from Moshe Safdie, after the break. 

Safdie Architects to Design Medal of Honor Museum in South Carolina

Following a national search, the National Medal of Honor Foundation has selected Safdie Architects to design its new museum and education center at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Safdie was selected for their “extensive experience with cultural projects and national monuments across the U.S. and abroad.” The National Medal of Honor Museum will bring the stories of the Medal of Honor recipients to life for visitors. 

Colombo Mixed-Use Development / Safdie Architects

Courtesy of Safdie Architects
Courtesy of Safdie Architects

Safdie Architects was recently selected to design a new mixed-use development in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The 69-storey mixed-use project will be the first for Moshe Safdie in Sri Lanka, and is expected to be the tallest residential building in Colombo when it is completed. The design includes expansive family and community space amenities such as community gardens, shared outdoor spaces within the upper levels of the building, and individual roof gardens or terraces for every residence, a hallmark of Safdie’s design philosophy to provide access to outdoor spaces in high density urban housing. More images and architects’ description after the break.