CBC Digital Archives

Oren Safdie's play: All in the family...

Moshe Safdie achieved worldwide fame when his sensational Habitat pavilion was the showcase of Expo 67. The visionary architect went on to design some of the country's best-known buildings, including the National Gallery of Canada, Vancouver's Library Square and the massive rebuild of Toronto's Pearson Airport. Millions of Canadians experience the power of his architecture daily. CBC looks at Safdie's career.

In 1981 Moshe Safdie published a controversial article in Atlantic Monthly entitled "Private Jokes in Public Places." In it, he bemoaned the trend toward focusing more on design and less on the needs of clients. He stated "Postmodern architects find social consciences inconvenient." Twenty years later his son, playwright Oren Safdie, premiered a play he called Private Jokes, Public Places that echoed many of the elder Safdie's views. CBC Radio's The Arts Today talks to Oren Safdie about the play and his father's philosophies. 
• "Oren Safdie skewers the pretensions of master builders, putting opaque language in their mouths and malice in their hearts. A young Korean woman draws up designs for a pretty swimming pool complex for her graduate thesis; three older practitioner-professors use highfalutin terms to belittle her proposal. The piece premiered off-Broadway, where it attracted much critical praise, including a career-making mention from the New Yorker: 'Safdie's Xacto-blade-sharp new comedy is a scream.' " — Toronto Life magazine, 2004

• Both of Moshe Safdie's children from his first marriage studied architecture. Their father always hoped his children would work with him, but they have both forged separate careers.
• Oren Safdie earned a master's degree in architecture from Columbia University, but realized in his final semester that his true passion lay in playwriting.
• After years of trying to break into Canadian theatre, Toronto's Tarragon Theatre asked to produce his play. Ironically this was just days after he became an American citizen.

• Moshe's daughter, Taal Safdie, is an architect practicing in San Diego with her husband Ricardo Rabines. Their firm, Safdie Rabines Architects, collaborated with Moshe Safdie on the design of Eleanor Roosevelt College, a 'campus within a campus' for the University of California, San Diego.
Medium: Radio
Program: The Arts Today
Broadcast Date: May 7, 2003
Guest(s): Oren Safdie
Host: Eleanor Wachtel
Duration: 5:19
Photo: David Gochfeld

Last updated: February 24, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

Old Quebec City named one of Canada's seven w...

Tourists flock to see some of North America's oldest buildings in what is now officially one o...

Safdie online

McGill University's Canadian Architectural Centre launches Safdie website featuring archival m...

The 'Jetson house' of suburbia

Residents say modern home doesn't fit with original Don Mills architecture.

The new (sub)urbanism

Suburbia goes architecturally high tech.

Moshe Safdie's 'The City After the Automobile...

Thirty years after Habitat, Safdie proposes another radical solution to the problem of urban s...