Habitat 67 In Montreal

If you consider yourself a fan of Canadian architecture then you should definitely be aware of this unique residential complex in Montreal.

Habitat 67 is located on a stretch of land in the St-Lawrence River (and visible from the historic Vieux-Montreal).


Image: Courtesy of Nora Vass

Habitat 67, designed by Moshe Safdie, began as a thesis project at McGill University in 1961. Safdie’s thesis titled “A Case for City Living” focused on designing a “three-dimensional modular building system” as an affordable housing complex. Two years after graduating from McGill, at the age of 23, Safdie entered a master plan of the theories developed in his thesis to a competition for the World Exposition of 1967. The master plan developed for the World Exposition included 1000 housing units and an additional school and shopping centers.

Image: Courtesy of MuseumViews

The concept behind Habitat 67 was to have the units constructed as part of an on-site prefabrication system. The purpose of on-site fabrication was to significantly reduce costs of production, furthering Safdie’s idea of an affordable housing complex. However, after accepting Safdie’s master plan the project was reduced to just 158 residential units having a great impact on the idea of affordable units, as costs raised significantly due to the reduction in the project’s size.

Each unit within the complex is a formation of one to four modules. The modules, or “boxes”, pre-fabricated on site are each 600 square-feet and weigh 90 tons. Each module is attached in various combinations using steel cables. The clusters of units are accessed through a grid of pedestrian streets and bridges, as well as three vertical elevator shafts.


Image: Courtesy of Brian Pirie

Pre-fabrication is all around us in the 21st century, but Safdie succeeded in breaking away from the typical concept of high-rise city living with his design for Habitat 67. The way in which the units were simultaneously set back from the floor below allows each tenant to have a personal roof-top garden.


Image: Courtesy of Pradata

The construction process of Safdie’s design allows for projects to be tailored and site-specific. Following the World Exposition, Habitats were constructed in New York, Puerto Rico, Israel, Rochester and Tehran. Generally, world fair pavilions are deconstructed following their intended use, but similar to The Eiffel Tower and The Crystal Palace the Habitat 67 structure remains on site and is still in use as a residential complex today.

Many people criticize the concrete aesthetic of the exterior, but check out this interior shot of a recent renovation by Montreal designer Maria di Ioia.
A beautiful contrast to the stark exterior:

Image: Courtesy of James Brittain


Visit Moshe Safdie's site here for more of his outstanding work.
Lead image: Courtesy of Jade Doskow.

Researched and Written by Spencer Robert Jeffries
Student of Interior Design - Ryerson University

Posted In: Quebec

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