Divinely Inspired Dwellings


Vanity Fair has a profile of and interview with Moshe Safdie. It’s pretty good, but the real genius comes right at the end, when Safdie drops a bomb of Jewish wisdom and compares a home to the mishkan. It’s a brilliant analogy:

I put it to him that, even so, he was a long, long way from one of the founding fathers of modern architecture, Le Corbusier, and his credo, “A house is a machine for living in.”


“A house is not a machine!” he (Safdie) exclaimed. “It’s something else for living—but not a machine.”


“What is it?”


“That’s a good question.”


He thought for a few moments. “You know, there’s a good Hebrew word for it, mishkan.


He explained that in biblical terms it means a sacred place, a tabernacle, divinely inspired. (And there are rules laid down for building it.) But, for Moshe Safdie, the secular meaning of mishkan is a house—a sublime refuge midst the clamor of the world.