- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
- Specialist wikis
Last edited 26 Nov 2020
Habitat 67 is an experimental modular housing complex in Montreal, Canada, designed by architect Moshe Safdie as a vision for the future of urban living. The building was created as the showpiece for Expo 67, one of the largest world fairs which was held in Montreal in 1967.
Safdie had originally conceived the building as part of his university thesis. He had travelled across America and become disillusioned by the high-rise apartments and unsustainable suburban sprawl that he saw as the prevailing modern architecture. He was inspired in part by the movement of Brutalism which had attempted to reinvent urban architecture, as well as the post-war Japanese movement known as Metabolism. This was characterised by buildings that were designed as organic, living systems of prefabricated cells.
Located on Cite du Havre, a man-made peninsula, Habitat 67 is now regarded as an architectural landmark despite its failure to achieve Safdie’s aim of ‘reinventing the apartment building’ in the high-density urban environment.
Safdie was approached to develop the master plan for the building which was approved by the federal government and financed for completion by the time of Expo 67, where housing was to be one of the central themes.
Habitat 67 comprises 354 prefabricated stacked concrete modules arranged in various geometric configurations to reach 12 storeys in height. The interlocking forms are connected via walkways and include landscaped terraces. By creating a series of properties that each feature its own roof garden and access from an external ‘street’, the idea was to combine the urban garden residence with the modular high-rise apartment building.
Fifteen different housing types were developed that varied between 60 and 160 sq. m. To increase the energy efficiency of the building by preventing unnecessary journeys, six large elevator pillars were constructed to allow for vertical access that stops only on every fourth level.
While the original masterplan envisaged more than 1,000 residences, together with shops and a school, the completed complex featured just 158 apartments of varying sizes and formations, the reduction being due in part to the higher-than-anticipated per-unit cost. A factory had been built beside the site so that the prefabricated construction of the modules could take place in close proximity, before being connected by high-tension rods, steel cables and welding. Far from being the most cost-effective solution, as had been thought, the costs escalated to CAD$22 million (which translated to around CAD$140,000 per apartment).
Despite being experienced by some 50 million people during Expo 67 and being lauded as a ‘fantastic experiment’ by critics, it did not inspire the ‘revolutionary uptake’ of prefabricated, modular development that had been hoped for by Safdie. Plans were proposed to replicate the design in New York, Puerto Rico and Israel but never realised.
After Expo 67 the Canadian government sold the building to a businessman for CAD$10 million. In 1985, the tenants formed a limited partnership to purchase the building for CAD$11.5 million, and since then it has come to be seen as a leading example of a successful co-operative.
The repairs to the duplex unit, which were undertaken over a 2-year period, involved extensive interior restoration, technical upgrades to 21st century energy conservation standards, and tackling water damage sustained since the building's completion. This required that the exterior concrete walls were stripped, before insulation and waterproofing could be carried out. The original timber parquet flooring was also restored, as well as the installation of slot detailing to improve the circulation of air.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- 7 Engineering Wonders of the World.
- Architectural styles.
- Blur Building.
- Building of the week series.
- Cite Radieuse.
- Concept architectural design.
- Dancing House, Prague.
- Geodesic dome.
- Last Futures: Nature, Technology and the End of Architecture.
- Little Crooked House, Poland.
- Lloyd's of London.
- Ministry of Transportation Building, Georgia.
- Nakagin Capsule Tower.
- Robot Building, Bangkok.
- St. Basil's Cathedral.
- The history of fabric structures.
- Unusual building design of the week.
 External references
Featured articles and news
Temperature in buildings, explained on DB
Main barrier to entering the profession, new study reveals.
On Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill.
Over 70 managers and organisations shortlisted for the 14 awards.
From biometric to electrical current, chemical and more.
Changes are due to come into force on 1st October 2022.
Heed advice and insight of this report IPA tells the government.
From the Commonwealth Association of Architects.
For the Levelling Up, Housing & Communities Committee.
BSRIA's Technical Director reflects on recent weather patterns.
A national valuation to fund old-age pensions.
The world’s largest Commonwealth memorial to the missing.
Long after the end of the defects liability period.
Occupant satisfaction and wellbeing in buildings.
From the simple to the complex.
And the UK Government guidelines.
Commitment agreed to by major built environment bodies.
Electrical skills, low carbon, high-tech and the building services revolution.
Ultra-deep drilling with millimeter-wave beam technology.
Looking at the built environment from space.
BSI standards 8671, 8672 and 8673.
Bringing life to burial grounds.
From failed modernism to twenty-minute neighbourhoods.
The gates process and change control.