Written by Imane Madi on 16.02.16

We Montrealers take our city for granted. We say we love it, and it’s the best city in the world, but what do we really know about it? How many of you studied Montreal history past grade 10 Quebec history? We thought so.

Our city is home to some of the most astounding buildings and architecture. Take Habitat 67, for example. Have you ever walked by the Old Port, looked over the water, and asked ‘‘What are those big cubes over there?” If you have, and didn’t have an answer, well, you’re in luck! Because we do.

Habitat 67 Montreal (2)

If you want to be informed (because knowledge is sexy!), we’ve gathered a bunch of facts that will astonish you about Habitat 67.

The story behind the name

You’re going to say ”Habitat 67? Why not 34 or something?” The answer is really simple: after being accepted as a project by the city, the Habitat hosted the people who participated in Expo ’67. The whole building was the pavilion of Expo 67; afterwards, it just kept the name!

Habitat 67 Montreal (4) fmguidemtl

People actually live there?

Oh yes, they do! Even if from the outside you have a hard time conceiving what it looks like inside, it’s a Montreal gem conceived by a genius! It’s mainly built using concrete and recyclable elements. 354 identical cubes comprise the building and were built in a factory nearby. The cubes were arranged in various configurations to create 146 residences, ranging from one to eight concrete cubes.

What do Legos and Habitat 67 have in common?

The primary models of Habitat 67 were built using Legos! They’re not just toys, after all.

Who could create something so ingenious?

His name is Moshe Safdie, a McGill University student who came to Canada when he was fifteen years old. In his thesis, the Habitat was the project for his architecture and urbanism program. After the Habitat, he designed many other buildings around the world (Israel, Singapour, Ottawa, Vancouver, Salt Lake City, San Diego, and Baltimore). He ended up teaching at Harvard University as well. Talk about accomplishments!

Habitat 67 Montreal (1)

Why did Safdie build Habitat 67?

His goal was to create housing that had all the benefits of single homes, such as gardens, fresh air, and privacy, but in the economical space of an urban apartment building. His plan was to create homes that would be ideal in crowded cities around the world. Unfortunately, because the building is so unique, his dream of affordable housing failed, and the market value is much higher than he would have anticipated.

Habitat 67 Montreal (4) sixpaperbirds

It’s fascinating that Habitat 67 was built at such an important and iconic moment in Montreal. Not only that, but if Safdie’s design is picked up by others, maybe our city will one day be filled with more attractive housing! It’s incredible what a Montrealer can do with Montreal…

Featured image and 1st photo by @dani.e.l. Photo 2 by @fmguidemtl, photo 3 by @yesmini_, and photo 4 by @sixpaperbirds.

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