What makes Moshe Safdies Habitat 67 so special

What makes Moshe Safdies Habitat 67 so special

To add to Luis Diaz’s answer, constructed about 46 years back (in 1967), the design is timeless.It explored new solution to urban design challenges of compact, high density living.Rather than an overpowering top down macro design, this project is designed bottom up.

i.e, the individual units and modules, and the way they are combined determine the overall design form and in the process creates extremely complex rich spaces, volumes, vistas, shadows and experiences.In spite of being 12 floors in height, the scale is human scale.The whole complex feels like a modern interpretation of old Mediterranean village clusters.

As highlighted by Rachel Preston Prinz, perhaps a little out of context.The three dimensional modular design, allowed 18 variations.You could merge units to make bigger ones.The flexible and expandable design seemed almost organic.

It was a very imaginative solution.Reflecting on the project’s significance in “A look back at habitat ’67” Safdie stated that“Habitat ‘67 is really two ideas in one.One is about prefabrication, and the other is about rethinking apartment-building design in the new paradigm.” By stacking concrete “boxes” in variant geometrical configurations, Safdie was able to break the traditional form of orthogonal high rises, locating each box a step back from its immediate neighbor.

This ingenious method provided each apartment with a roof garden, a constant flow of fresh air and a maximum of natural light: qualities which were unprecedented for a twelve story apartment complex.Habitat 67 thus pioneered the integration of two housing typologies—the suburban garden home and the economical high-rise apartment building.Safdie believed that “high density living can and should be a lot more fun than it is in today’s conventional, box-like apartment buildings” which he considers “unfit for human consumption.” His desire was to offer a “fragment of paradise to everyone”, better living for the average family by creating a complete environment, providing them with privacy, their own garden, fresh air, sunlight, and a sense of identity within each home.

And looks like he succeeded there.”We can walk right around it and feel it belongs to us.You can’t do that in an ordinary apartment building,” said Mrs. Peters, one of the residents at Habitat 67.

Amazingly, the project design originated from Moshe Safdie’s master’s thesis in 1961 as an architectural student, and was designed when he was just 23, at least half the age one would expect an architect for this kind of project to be.As told by Safdie himself:“When I look back, to be honest, it’s kind of a bit of a fairy tale that that 23-year-old got it done.You know, [I was] inexperienced, had never built a building.

I think of people that age coming into my office today.

It was a novel building for its time.It was not only prefabricated and stacked and connected together, but it also resulted in a unique form.Prefabrication in housing was common but it generally resulted in towers or slabs.

Safdie’s approach was to use prefabrication to arrive at a more ‘organic’ result.There is lots of open space for each of the units – more than just a balcony, it’s a proper outdoor living room.The project is also loosely connected with the idea of ‘structuralism’ in architecture which sought to create an architecture that was modular, expandable and extendable and also partly unfinished.

The idea was that it could grow, change, contract and alter over the course of time rather than see buildings as fixed forms that work or don’t work (and then get torn down).I’ve not studied the project closely so I can’t comment about how well the units work or how well it’s held up.I do wonder about the potentially dark and dank underneath spaces generated by its pyramidal structure.

Forgive my jest here because it is one, but the phrasing of the question implies that it is, in fact, special, when I think its safer to ask the question, “Is it special?”For me, some of the things I think ARE special about this structure are that it starts to embrace letting the environment in.That alone is quite lovely.

Then you add the sculptural nature of the work – one cannot quite tell if it is additive or subtractive, rather it seems to balance on the precipice between the two extremes.I love the corner windows and the tension created by the overly long expanses of unsupported structure.The use of concrete is a turn-off to me.However, the abstraction, and almost alarmingly simple, yet playful… use of it I find exciting.

Again we find herein a tension.I feel pulled apart by this work in ways.That makes it somewhat amazing despite its faults.

Now, does it speak to its Place in Montreal?Not so much.Is it a place I’d like to be?

No.So in those ways, it fails the test, and can be called unspecial.