habitat 67 montreal

This might be Canada's most unusual apartment building

No matter where you are in Canada, you can probably find an incredibly cool, architecturally interesting apartment building to gawk at. 

But no matter how fancy or aesthetically pleasing a building may be, there's no complex quite like Habitat 67

Built by an Israeli-Canadian architect named Moshe Safdie, Habitat 67 in Montreal has been named one of the most important buildings of the 1960s

The project was originally conceived as part of Safdie’s McGill University thesis, and it was his government-sponsored attempt at reimagining apartment living.

He hoped to provide the benefits of suburban living, including more green space and privacy, within a modern city apartment complex.  

The revolutionary building was created as part of Expo 67, and it was Safdie’s very first project. 

To this day, only two pavillions from Expo 67 still stand in Montreal: Habitat 67, and Buckminster Fuller’s dome that now serves as the Montreal Biosphere

Said to represent 1960s utopianism, the building is essentially a configuration of 354 beige box-like modules stacked on top of one another and together they form 148 apartment units.

"Habitat 67 is the amazing accomplishment of Moshe Sadie’s youth. The principal quality of Moshe Safdie’s entire work is to confer to things a character of eternity," said architect and expert in Safdie's work Wendy Kohn back in 1996.

"He puts emphasis on architecture’s daily life: the way spaces are used, the performance of the building in its climate, the real desires of future residents. In many ways, the essence of his work is a dichotomy: at the same time tearing and meditation between the universal and the specific, between the ideal and the real."

Due to its worldwide fame and recognition, Habitat 67 has also been used as a backdrop for numerous well-known music and film projects including Céline Dion's shoot in W Magazine, a Leonard Cohen music video as well as the movies Blades of Glory and Funkytown. 

There are also guided tours of the residential complex for those looking to learn more about the history of the unique architectural gem. 

Habitat 67 was Safdie's attempt at enhancing city living and providing beautiful yet affordable places for city dwellers to live.

And though it's had its fair share of problems and controversies over the years, the building was awarded heritage status by the Quebec government in 2009 in recognition of its architectural and ideological importance.

Today, it remains an integral part of the Montreal skyline.

Lead photo by

Justin A Wilcox

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