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Poster for Harvard Book Store presents Moshe Safdie

Harvard Book Store presents Moshe Safdie

Coming on November 2

Run Time: 90 min.

Harvard Book Store Presents:

Moshe Safdie


If Walls Could Speak:
My Life in Architecture

in conversation with YO-YO MA

Harvard Book Store welcomes award-winning architect MOSHE SAFDIE for a discussion of his highly anticipated new book If Walls Could Speak: My Life in Architecture. He will be joined in conversation by award-winning cellist YO-YO MA.

A Return to In-Person Events

Harvard Book Store is excited to be back to in-person programming. To ensure the safety and comfort of everyone in attendance, the following Covid-19 safety protocols will be in place at all of our Brattle Theatre events until further notice:

  • Face coverings are required of all staff and attendees when inside the venue. Masks must snugly cover nose and mouth. At venues where refreshments are served, attendees may briefly unmask when actively eating or drinking.
  • Attendance is capped so as to allow for some social distancing in the venue.

For the time being, we will not be holding author signings at these events, in order to limit close contact. When possible, we will have pre-signed books available for purchase on-site.


Each ticket includes one hardcover copy of If Walls Could Speak: My Life in Architecture.

About If Walls Could Speak

Over more than five decades, legendary architect Moshe Safdie has built some of the world’s most influential and memorable structures—from the 1967 modular housing scheme in Montreal known as “Habitat” and the Yad Vashem memorial in Israel, to the Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas and the Marina Bay Sands development and extraordinary Jewel Changi airport interior garden and waterfall in Singapore. For Safdie, the way a space functions is fundamental; he is deeply committed to architecture as a social force for good, believing that any challenge, including extreme population density and environmental distress, can be addressed with solutions that enhance community and uplift the human spirit. Safdie always refers to the “silent client” an architect must ultimately serve: the people who live in, work in, or experience a building.

If Walls Could Speak takes readers behind the veil of an essential yet mysterious profession to explain through Safdie’s own experiences how an architect thinks and works—“from the spark of imagination through the design process, the model-making, the politics, the engineering, the materials.” Relating memorable stories about what has inspired him—from childhoods in Israel and Montreal to the projects and personalities worldwide that have captured his imagination—Safdie reveals the complex interplay that underpins every project and his vision for the role architecture can and should play in society at large. Illustrated throughout with drawings, sketches, photographs, and documents from his firm’s voluminous archives that illuminate his stories, If Walls Could Speak ends with a chapter outlining seven projects Safdie would pursue around the world if resources and will were no issue and the choices were his to make.

A book like no other, If Walls Could Speak will forever change the way you look at and appreciate any built structure.

Praise for If Walls Could Speak

If Walls Could Speak is not just about architecture; it is about a man in search of beauty, truth, and service to people through examining ‘nature, the nature of the universe, and the nature of man.’ In his autobiography, Moshe Safdie succeeds in making the walls speak, revealing not only the depth, curiosity, and drive of a man with a mission, but also the challenges he faced creating extraordinary work for more than five decades. Perhaps he says it best: ‘If we seek truth, we shall find beauty.’ I was profoundly moved reading this book.” —Yo-Yo Ma

“What are the deep personal sources of creativity? How is it possible for someone to take the conventional built environment and make it new? A visionary book, If Walls Could Speaktriumphantly answers these questions by giving us intimate access to the life and mind of one of the greatest architects of our time.” —Stephen Greenblatt, Pulitzer-prize-winning author of The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

“Moshe Safdie makes beautiful and important buildings. He makes buildings that envelop, soothe and invigorate you. He makes buildings that infuse into your day and life a sense that bigger things might suddenly be possible. He makes buildings that—whether you have driven past his landmark Habitat in Montreal, toured an exhibit in his searing Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem, or spent the night in his epic Marina Sands Hotel—you will never, ever forget. What is remarkable about If Walls Could Speak is that Safdie’s memoir is as unforgettable as anything he has produced out of stone, cement and steel. Safdie takes us on a gripping journey through the stirrings and challenges that gave rise to buildings that have changed whole communities and even nations. But If Walls Could Speak is much more than the memoir of a legendary architect; because of Safdie’s storytelling gifts, it is also a coming-of-age story, a tale of rebellion and redemption, and an inspiring tour of the better part of the last century, in which questions of place, community, and identity collided, and in which one man developed a vision for how he could do his part to improve the experience of living.” —Samantha Power, former United Nations ambassador and bestselling author of The Education of an Idealist

author photo: Moshe SafdieMoshe Safdie

A citizen of the US, Canada and Israel, Moshe Safdie is acclaimed as one of the greatest and most innovative architects of the past half century. In 2019 he was awarded the prestigious Wolf Prize—considered along with the Nobel Prize as one of the most important prizes bestowed on an individual—for having “a career motivated by the social concerns of architecture and formal experimentation.” Safdie is primarily based in Cambridge, MA, not far from his firm’s studio in Somerville and the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where he currently teaches.

Photo Credit: Michal Ronnen Safdie


photo: Yo-Yo MaYo-Yo Ma

Yo-Yo Ma was born in 1955 to Chinese parents living in Paris, where he began to study the cello with his father at age four. Three years later, he moved with his family to New York City, where he continued his cello studies at the Juilliard School before pursuing a liberal arts education at Harvard. Yo-Yo’s career is testament to his faith in culture’s power to generate the trust and understanding essential to a strong society. This belief inspired Yo-Yo to establish the global cultural collective Silkroad, and, more recently, to set out on the Bach Project — a six-continent tour of J. S. Bach’s suites for solo cello and an invitation to a larger conversation about culture, society, and the themes that connect us all.

Photo Credit: Jason Bell

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