Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press

If Walls Could Speak

My Life in Architecture

by Moshe Safdie

One of the world’s greatest and most thoughtful architects recounts his extraordinary career and the iconic structures he has built—from Habitat in Montreal to Marina Bay Sands in Singapore—and offers a manifesto for the role architecture should play in society

  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Page Count 368
  • Publication Date September 20, 2022
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5832-1
  • Dimensions 6.125" x 9.125"
  • US List Price $32.50
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Publication Date September 20, 2022
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5834-5
  • US List Price $32.50

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, 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:

“The renowned architect reflects on his life designing famous structures such as Montreal’s Habitat ’67 and Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands and argues for an architectural philosophy that focuses not only on truth and beauty but also on social engagement.”—New York Times Book Review

“Who knew that one of the world’s premier architects could possess such an engaging and warm voice as he recounts his life and explains what he tries to achieve in his work? . . . It is a measure of Safdie’s humanity that everything he designs puts his concern for the user above all other considerations, and the book’s photographs do full justice to his work.”—Air Mail

“As this warmly reflective memoir shows, ideas around human rights, socialization and access to nature have continued to underpin the urban and architectural philosophy of Safdie, now in his 80s.”—Globe and Mail

“Marvelous . . . In prose unburdened by pretension, Safdie articulates his artistic philosophy against the backdrop of a changing world, maintaining that architecture should be both intentional and socially engaged. The result yields a brilliant defense of architecture as an expression of truth and beauty.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“The internationally renowned architect chronicles his life and describes the evolution of his ideas and major projects . . . In this engaging narrative, he offers intriguing details of design and construction, as well as photos and drawings, for a variety of major projects . . . A thoughtful, appealing memoir of architecture, creativity, and purpose.”—Kirkus Reviews

“A memoir-cum-travel diary-cum-manifesto for responsible, thoughtful design.”—Cultured

“Invites readers behind the veil of an essential yet ‘mysterious profession’ to explain through Safdie’s own experiences and memories how an architect thinks and works . . . Safdie reveals the complex interplay that underpins every project and his vision for the role architecture can and should play in society at large.”—World Architecture

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 over six 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 Speak triumphantly 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

“The world knows Moshe Safdie as an international architect of the greatest modern buildings. With this compelling  memoir Safdie will now be known as a beautiful writer who conveys—with elegance, and understanding—what it takes to create a building while telling the story of a long and fascinating life the reader is privileged to share.”—Ruth Rogers, owner/chef of The River Café

Praise for Moshe 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.”—Boston Society of Architects president Emily Grandstaff-Rice in her nomination letter for the Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects 

Author Tour Dates



New York, NY


In conversation with Samuel Lubell

Event info here

6:30 PM ET


Boston, MA


Time TK


Boston, MA


Brattle Theatre

In conversation with Yo-Yo Ma

Time TK