Habitat 67: Stacks 354 Prefabs Into The Future

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Habitat 67 stacks 354 prefabs that get urban/suburban balance.

Canada does it again. Dating from the 1960s, this concrete prefab collective may be the wave of the future. Designed by famed architect Moshe Safdie. Looks like a softer version of Italian Brutalism. We’re fans of this building and we hope you will be too. 

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Habitat 67 was a 1960s experiment in dense, downtown housing that tried to combine the best of urban and suburban living. Architect Moshe Safdie wanted to integrate the qualities of a suburban home- the access to nature and views- into a high-rise. Built for the 1967 World’s Fair, Habitat 67 was also a prototype of an affordable “3D modular building system” that he hoped would “reinvent the apartment building”. Like the Japanese Metabolism movement (see Nagakin capsule tower: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXRJE…), Habitat 67 is an interconnected web of prefabricated cells stacked so the emergent whole feels less coldly geometric and more organic.

“Habitat 67 comprises 354 identical, prefabricated concrete forms arranged in various combinations, reaching up to 12 stories in height. Together these units create 146 residences of varying sizes and configurations, each formed from one to eight linked concrete units. The complex originally contained 158 apartments, but several apartments have since been joined to create larger units, reducing the total number. Each unit is connected to at least one private terrace, which can range from approximately 20 to 90 square metres (225 to 1,000 sq ft) in size.” – Wikipedia

Originally, Safdie had aimed to create an affordable prefab system, but given the experimental nature of the project, costs reached approximately C$140,000 per unit (pricey for the 1960s). Today, the apartment owners all own shares in the building. Long-time resident George Boynton helped instigate changing the status of the complex from government-owned apartment building to a private Limited Partnership Complex. He gave us a tour of the 10-story building and a walk-through of Mosha Safdie’s newly-renovated apartment.

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