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Copyright: Architectural Review, Bd. 142, Nr. 846, August 1967, S. 147

The housing project known as "Habitat" on the Cité du Havre peninsula was an attempt to give new impulses to residential construction with a method of design rigorously based on the modular unit principle. Its aim was not only to take into account the individual needs of a wide range of residents, while retaining a high occupant density, but also to try out modern and cheaper series fabrication techniques for the building industry. In a specially constructed factory the architects Moshe Safdie, who was just 29, and his colleague David Barrott, cast concrete boxes with sides of five times eleven meters in length and a height of three meters. Of the originally planned 1,350 boxes, only 354 room elements were prefabricated for cost reasons and transported to the building site with special vehicles. Safdie initially planned to suspend the 85 ton boxes on gigantic, upside-down V-shaped concrete beams. However, after revisal of the design the units were only stacked like a honeycomb on top of each other with a crane to form a complex twelve-story structure. Asymmetrical projections, on which roof terraces and loggias were arranged, were able to be secured by post-tensioned vertical cables.

What seemed randomly thrown together in detail resulted in its overall form in a dynamic/rhythmic structure forming a sharp and exciting contrast to the historical harbor. Depending on the combination of the boxes, fifteen different types of house - from a single-room apartment to a luxury apartment over two stories - could be offered, all with air-conditioning and central heating. In the end, 158 apartments were created for 700 residents and were stratified in such a way that all had terraces and sufficient light.

The interior and exterior spaces of the apartments were skillfully intermeshed. Between the residential boxes, there was a system of pedestrian footways, known as 'sky streets', at all levels; these were 4.57 meters wide and vaulted by Plexiglas. There were a supply road and parking lots on the ground floor. Annexed to it was a playground of more than 3,720 square meters in size with a large lake which supplied the air-conditioning system of the building. Some apartments were furnished and were able to be viewed during Expo '67. In addition, models documented the new fabrication method for the building structure and showed how the boxes had been reinforced, cast and transported. Of course, Habitat had to be adapted over the years to the requirements of modern living, but is still remains a popular residential area, above all due to its location on the river bank. A tenant's self-administration association now ensures the preservation of the building complex.

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The Montreal World Exposition 1967
Stacked like building blocks - The experimental Habitat housing project
Year: 1967City: MontrealCountry: Canada
Duration: 28th April - 27th October 1967



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