Surely Moshe Safdie’s open-hand design for the ArtScience museum in Singapore is his response to Le Corbusier’s “Open Hand” monument in Chandigarh, India?
(Le Corbusier designed many versions of the “Open Hand,” variously resembling a cockleshell, a tree, a crow or dove. So the fact that the ArtScience museum could be seen as either a lotus or an open hand further aligns it with Le Corbusier’s vision.)
When Safdie was a young man in Israel in the 1940s, he was a great admirer of Le Corbusier and the International Style. And then, in the early 2000s, Safdie was commissioned to build a Sikh heritage museum in Chandigarh, so he had lots of time to observe first-hand the utopia that Nehru commissioned Le Corbusier to build. (Le Corbusier designed the entire city from scratch.)
Here is a video of Le Corbusier talking about the philosophy behind the Open Hand:
Although the sentiments are not quite as lofty, the ArtScience museum is also a symbol of openness. It’s been called the “Welcoming Hand of Singapore.”
Safdie wasn’t that impressed with Chandigarh overall.
In an interview with The New Yorker in 2003, he said he found the bleakness of Chandigarh depressing. He, like many others before him, remarked on how little it felt like an Indian city, with few of Le Corbusier’s buildings being used in the manner they were intended. For Safdie, who is himself often tapped to build monuments in societies he has little knowledge of, this must be a continuing cause for anxiety. And then, there was Le Corbusier’s distaste for chaos and hubbub (perhaps he would have been a better choice for a Singapore commission, hah hah). Safdie said he didn’t like how Le Corbusier’s buildings tended to stand alone in parks and plazas like sculptures in a museum and that he wanted his architecture to be permeable, to become part of the life of the street. Could we say that’s been achieved with the ArtScience museum? Probably to a greater extent than the Open Hand.