moshe safdie completes skirball center in los angeles hills
moshe safdie completes skirball center in los angeles hills moshe safdie completes skirball center in los angeles hills
sep 17, 2013

moshe safdie completes skirball center in los angeles hills

moshe safdie completes skirball center in santa monica mountains 

image © tim hursley 

all images courtesy safdie architects



marking the end of a 30 year endeavor, the fourth and final phase of the skirball center by moshe safdie is complete and set to open to the public in october. sited at the base of a once-barren hill in los angeles, the skirball center complex is the united states’ largest jewish cultural institution and is programmatically dedicated to showcasing and sustaining 4000 years of jewish heritage. the joint vision of uric d. herscher and the architect, at the time the project was safdie’s first cultural project in the U.S. the completion of the campus will be commemorated by a retrospective of safdie’s design philosophy and practice over his 50 year career, entitled ‘global citizen: the architecture of moshe safdie.’ 



wrapping around the emerald landscape of the santa monica mountains, the skirball center is an accretion of pavilions, courtyards and gardens with a material palette that evokes the makeup of paradise and recalls ancient jewish traditions. the complex topography of the site in broken down in scale and made both accessible and serene by the cluster of landscaped ravines and longitudinally positioned arcades. sunken courtyards complement a museum program centered on tracing the visions of values of jewish people from antiquity to america. galleries dedicated to changing exhibitions, conferences and educational centers are fully embedded in the rolling  greenery. the buildings are all comprised of subtly pink tadoussac stone and feature recessed glazing, impressive vaulted ceilings and manicured planted areas. rooftops are distinguished by stainless steel vaulted roofs that reflect the painted southern california sky.



view of the complex as it wraps around the emerald hills

image © tim hursley



stepped and sunken gardens complement sky-reflecting stainless-steel roof vaults

image © tim hursley



view of an arcade-wrapped sunken garden

image © tim hursley



interior and rooftop landscaping complements both the santa monica mountains as well as the pink stone that makes up the buildings

image © tim hursley



interior view of the green pavilion

image © tim hursley



the completion of the final phase features two adjoining buildings, herscher hall and guerin pavilion, sited on the north side of the campus and slated to continue the center’s successful programming as well as further deepen the extent of the museums’s role as a community organizer. the addition of 40,000 square feet of classrooms, conference spaces, gardens, and a grand hall will have a 1200 guest capacity and will further bolster the center’s large-scale public and professional gatherings. the central tectonic gesture is the 9,000-square-foot grand hall is flooded with warm natural light from nearly 100 custom-designed skylights in a roof supported by oregon douglas fir beams. a large window-wall frames the dramatic view of the cascading terraced courtyard garden, which contains 30 Japanese maple trees and creates the appearance of a floor-to-ceiling living mural spanning the full length of the room. the entrance plaza to the new building is accented with coral trees, enamel art panels, and a monumental fountain–all scaled to evoke a sense of welcome and community that has so characterized the museum for decades.



image © tim hursley



the last phase of the skirball complex is set to bolster an already thriving public and event program

image © tim hursley


  • Mr. Safdie’s legions of fans in Rochester, NY say hi.

    dbkii says:
  • it’s very good.

    mokhtarch says:
  • A project which was developed during the disasterous post modern movement is a surprising testament to understated excellent design that has spanned decades, offering its vision of how the built landscape can complement and enrich the cultural and physical landscape of such a baffling city. With each phase it just keeps getting better. I’d like to thank Safdie for treating his clients and the people of LA to something very special.

    LA resident says:

have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.
all comments are reviewed for the purposes of moderation before publishing.

comments policy
designboom's comment policy guidelines
generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

- please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
- please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
- please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
- please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
- please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
(there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
the best 100-200 entries too.)

a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.


a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

architecture news

keep up with our daily and weekly stories
502,393 subscribers
- see sample
- see sample