Habitat 67 housing complex – Montreal, Canada

“Reinvent the Apartment Building”

Moshe Safdie, early 1960s

The modernist accommodation dream of young Israeli-Canadian designer Moshe Safdie stands on a narrow piece of man-made land directly opposite the old quarter of downtown Montreal. Originally this land was created to form a protective ice break.

Designed & created for the Montreal World Fair 1967. It is one of only two remaining pavilions from the expo that saw some 50 million visitors flock to Montreal in 1967 – at the time a city of under three million population.

Moshe Safdie inspects a Habitat 67 design model – Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis

In 2015 a headline in the Guardian newspaper read ‘Habitat 67, Montreal’s failed dream’, mimicking a term used prevoiulsy by the Canadian magazine Walrus which referred to Habitat 67 as a ‘Failed Dream’

However, there are so many admirers of this building. Those who see it a visual statement as much today as when first built. A testament that when good design concepts are applied, public housing schemes can provide quality living spaces.

To support this – you only need look at the buildings achievements:

  • It has become a very desirable inner-city address.
  • It is a world renown architectural tourist attraction.
  • The building was awarded heritage status in 2009.

How many state sponsored 1960’s housing complexes can boast that ?

The complex comprises of 354 cubes arranged in the Japanese post-war architectural style of ‘Metabolism’. The most famous building of this style being the Nakagin Capsule Tower, Tokyo. Habitat 67 originally catered for 160 homes.

Habitat 67 from downtown Montreal 2016 – Photograph: FiF

The main design intentions are:

  • Permeable to light – allowing natural light to permeate into every unit & all spaces within the complex
  • Attached to nature – each unit having access to a roof top garden. Along with several public gardens
  • Community – units connected to each other by streets not corridors, and many multiuse common spaces
  • Mobility – a sense of space and easy communication with views throughout the entire complex
Habitat 67 – Photographs: Google Images – Habitat 67


  • Moshe Safdie Ted Talk – How to Reinvent the apartment building 2014 – https://www.ted.com/talks/moshe_safdie_how_to_reinvent_the_apartment_building?language=en
  • HGTV.ca – Look inside Habitat 67 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hmwrx9hnCUw
  • Discover Montreal – Iconic Habitat 67 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wdemf-VcDVk
  • Habitat 67 official website – www.habitat67.com