Montreal was the host of the Universal Exhibition in 1967 and it changed the city in multiple aspects. The underground transportation “the Metro” was inaugurated and buildings were erected for the occasion. Under the theme of Man and His World, “Terre des Hommes”, multiple subjects were presented and one of them was our habitat.
An innovative young man, without experience, a student at McGill University, presented an impressive bold project. Moshe Safdie’s idea and vision of housing changed the image of Montreal. Built on a man-made peninsula, the very wide housing project attracted millions of visitors. The concrete block modules are scattered in an untraditional way like a mix of Lego blocks and Minecraft, far more attractive than a standard square apartment building. The architectural result even looks modern today. The housing was meant to be a key solution for high-density cities as a cost-efficient and a pleasant place to live. Units with private balconies, well-organized pathways for privacy and lovely outdoor landscaping have been applauded. While most of the aspects were satisfactorily accomplished, the project cost was way above budget. The prefabricated concrete forms were more challenging and expensive than expected, making similar projects difficult to sell.
The structure surely stands out even from afar. The 148 apartment complex, not all of the same size, is now privately owned. It has incredible views of the St.Lawrence River, the Old Port and downtown Montreal. It is possible to visit the place by appointment in the summer.
The Habitat 67 is not the only structure remaining from the Expo. The Biosphere museum was the United State pavilion and was donated to the city, and the French site next to the Quebec “booth” were combined with a third structure to create today’s Montreal Casino.
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