Moshe Safdie Awarded 2015 AIA Gold Medal

The starchitect takes the top honors in a tight vote over Philly's Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates.

rendering of free library addition

A rendering of the Central Branch with the Moshe Safdie addition. Credit:

The Board of Directors at the American Institute of Architecture has chosen Moshe Safdie, FAIA, as the recipient of the 2015 AIA Gold Medal. The selection of Safdie, whose portfolio includes Montreal’s Habitat ’67 and Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands among others, is certainly a worthy choice, but not without some controversy. He won the prestigious award in a hotly contested vote with Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown of Venturi, Scott Brown. The pair was the first joint nomination in the award’s 68-year history.

There’s an interesting Philly connection here. Safdie’s bold expansion plans at the Free Library were put on hold “indefinitely”  back in April. He was also mentored by the legendary Louis Kahn, an AIA Gold Medal winner in 1971. Philadelphia-based Venturi, Scott Brown are starchitects in their own right, and long fought to have the award include partners in the nominations.

According to a press release, Safdie’s “comprehensive and humane approach to designing public and cultural spaces across the world has touched millions of people and influenced generations of younger architects.”

Here’s what Emily Grandstaff-Rice, AIA and  president of the Boston Society of Architects, said in her nomination letter of Safdie:

“Moshe Safdie has continued to practice architecture in the purest and most complete sense of the word, without regard for fashion, with a hunger to follow ideals and ideas across the globe in his teaching, writing, practice and research.”

Architectural Record reports that it “required several rounds of voting to determine a winner.” Denise Scott Brown had some interesting words about the close vote:

“You can cogitate all you like about why it happened … I’ve had very long years of not getting the job—and not getting this and that—and it’s not ripping my flesh off.”