Habitat was the major theme exhibition of the 1967 Montreal World Exposition. As a landmark demonstration project, it pioneered a vision for urban housing using the technology of pre-fabricated construction. As a break-through building type that continues to resonate today, Habitat seeks to create a vital neighborhood with open spaces, garden terraces and many other amenities typically reserved for the single-family home, now adapted to a high density city environment.
365 construction modules connect to create 158 residences. These range in size from 600-square-foot one-bedroom dwellings to 1,800-square-foot four-bedroom dwellings. In all, there are fifteen different housing types. Stepped back in their modular placement, each residence has its own roof garden. Play areas for young children are provided throughout the building.
Three elevator cores direct vertical circulation throughout the complex. Elevators stop at every fourth floor to serve pedestrian streets. The streets are continuous through the project, and access to the dwellings is directly off them. The project incorporates both covered parking for all tenants and additional visitor parking.
In Habitat ’67 all the parts of the building, including the units, the pedestrian streets, and the elevator cores, participate as load-carrying members. The units are connected to each other by post-tensioning, high-tension rods, cables, and welding, all of which combine to form a continuous suspension system. The interior components were produced, assembled and installed into each box unit in the factory, with single-unit bathrooms of gel-coated fibreglass, kitchens manufactured by Frigidaire, and window frames made of Geon plastic.
Efforts have been made over the two-year period of renovation to return the duplex to its original condition. The process started with research – the architects made an inventory of the state of the building and examined archive material that revealed the original 1967 building and interiors. Key structural renovations included repairing water damage and many technical elements were upgraded to meet sustainable standards of today.
Wood parquet flooring now looks as good as new, with a slot detail added to allow air to flow from the raised floor below. Windows were replaced with energy-efficient equivalents, making sure to match the original profile and sightlines and the patio doors now retract smoothly into the wall. Safdie Architects continues to work on the restoration of the exterior envelope of Habitat ’67 complex in order to preserve and celebrate the iconic design and its ambitious vision for living.