By Doug Crisp
On Memorial Day weekend, I found myself on the beautiful
island of Montreal.
A major reason for my visit was to see Moshe Safdie’s 'Habitat 67', an iconic and experimental housing complex created for the World Exposition of 1967.
Amazingly, the project was originally conceived by Safdie as his thesis project at Montreal’s McGill University in 1961. Safdie’s thesis supervisor recommended he submit his project for the World Exposition, and it was picked up by the Canadian government.
Eventually the number of units was reduced, but it is a truly impressive feat accomplished at such a young age, and surely the greatest grade a student could hope for.
The concept revolves around a repeated living module that is formed, cast in concrete and fitted with services, millwork, fixtures and amenities, then lifted into place.
Apartments consist of one to four modules, stacked in a way that guarantees either St. Lawrence River views to the east, or city views to the west through frameless glass vistas or outdoor terraces.
As Habitat 67 remains a private residential complex, it is not possible to visit the grounds without a guide. We were shown around by Jean, who explained the concept behind the repeated modules, and the continuing success of a lot of the original mechanical and connecting transport systems.
Visiting in May meant the surrounding gardens were in full bloom, with native birds and wildlife happily enjoying the grounds.
We even stumbled across the local river surf spot, located behind Habitat 67.
Montreal is a beautiful city, full of interesting quirks and charming attractions, Habitat 67 being my favorite.