Following twelve years of teaching at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Moshe Safdie formed, within his Boston office, a program in order to pursue advanced investigation of particular design topics. The underlying premise of this practice oriented fellowship is that research into and development of speculative proposals, outside normal business practice constraints, is crucial in developing unique and fresh solutions to commissioned works. Each year Moshe Safdie targets a general theme that guides the work of the fellows and the staff.
Mobility on Demand
Over the past century we have witnessed how cities have accepted the automobile – as a new form of mobility, to how cities have coevolved with the car, and how cities have been structured around the car and the mobility that the passenger car offers. In each of these instances new typologies emerged – from urban patterns (suburbs), to infrastructure (highways) to building types (parking garages) that redefined how the city was organized and in turn the type of mobility. The amount of real estate devoted to the car – for mobility, storage, access and retrieval, etc. has been steadily increasing to the point where the car now consumes the daily lives of the majority of those living in and around cities, both physically and visually. The advent of mobility on demand (MoD) suggests that we are poised to witness a break in the natural coevolution of the car and the city that is equal to or greater than anything we have seen since the introduction of one to the other. The concept MoD is simple – a car becomes available to you as you need it and ceases to be your responsibility or a burden the moment you no longer need it. This research effort is focused on understanding the impact of mobility on demand on existing cities and building types; and to then speculate as to whether this new type of mobility suggests a new type of urbanism.
Habitat of the Future
To revisit the concept of Habitat almost half a century later demands that we reconsider and rearticulate the objectives of this enterprise. What did Habitat aim to provide? How has it lived up to its promise? How might it be improved as a living environment or made more affordable? Or made more sustainable? Or made more adaptable to current urban conditions? These questions draw on issues of lifestyle, social interaction, construction technologies, and real estate economies, to mention but a few of the relevant issues. Habitat was, above all, about the theme “for everyone a garden,” a metaphor for making an apartment in a high-rise structure into what connotes “house”- a dwelling with its own identity, openness in a variety of orientations, and adjacent personal garden space set within a community. One of the charms of Habitat was that it maintained the feeling of an agglomeration of houses, not of high-rise apartment living. The individual identity of the house is maintained - its autonomy within the whole, its abutting garden open to the sky, its multiple orientations transcending the decades-old malaise associated with apartment living. In deciding to embark on Habitat of the Future, we face the question, how might we do this today at the beginning of the twenty-first century? We must carefully define our objectives if we are to avoid an ambiguous drift, seesawing between questions of economics and density on one hand, and amenity and livability on the other. The following themes have guided the Habitat of the Future studies: regional adaptation, individualization of the dwelling, buildability, density and mixed-use, and structural simplification.
While numerous recent studies have investigated the topic of tall buildings they have uniformly framed their research around answering questions such as “what happens when you build tall?” and “how tall can you go?”. This research effort is focused on asking “what happens when you build more than one tall building?”.