Habitat '67

New York 1967

Puerto Rico 1968
Israel 1969
Rochester 1971
Tehran 1976 

Habitat '67 developed out of architect Moshe Safdie's 1961 thesis project and report ("A Case for City Living: An Investigation into the Urban Dwelling for Families"). It was realized as the main pavilion and thematic emblem for the International World Exposition and its theme, Man and His World, held in Montreal in 1967. Born of the socialist ideals of the 1960s, Safdie's thesis project explored new solutions to urban design challenges and high-density living. His ideas evolved into a building system which pioneered the prefabrication and mass-production of modules, called "boxes," conceived as highly adaptable housing prototypes for various sites and climatic conditions.
Habitat New York was to have provided luxury, high-density housing and a full array of commercial, retail, office, and institutional facilities within a single complex in New York City. The project evolved in two schemes. Designs for Habitat New York I were undertaken by Safdie between October and December, 1967, for a waterfront site overlooking the East River, north of the mayor's Gracie Mansion in uptown New York City. When the principal backer, Carol Haussamen, changed the site to a second location on the East River in lower Manhattan in March, 1968, Safdie developed an entirely new structural system. The designs for Habitat New York II were developed between May and December, 1968. Neither schemes were realized; Habitat New York was abandoned due to funding problems.
Funded by the Federal Housing Authority (FHA), Habitat Puerto Rico was commissioned as a prototype for providing low-cost housing to moderate-income families in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Though unbuilt, the project was developed in two phases and for two different sites between 1968 and the time of the project's termination in 1973. Both sites shared similar topographical features in underdeveloped neighbourhoods of San Juan. Phase I of the project, designed for the neighbourhood of Hato Rey, evolved in planning stage only between 1968 and February 1969. This mountainous site was ultimately rejected by the FHA in favour of a second site, known as Berwin Farm, on which some preliminary construction did occur between March 1969 and 1973.
When the Israeli Ministry of Housing commissioned Safdie to produce a prototype for industrialized housing for Israel in 1969, there were specific design imperatives which needed to be met, and for which Safdie's system of prefabricated modules seemed perfectly suited. These imperatives stemmed chiefly from Israel's varied climatic and topographical conditions, as well as its diverse density requirements (ranging from 10-40 units per acre), owing to the country's mixed desert and mountain geography. Safdie thus devised a modular system featuring rotating domes, enabling the resident to transform outdoor terrace space into an indoor solarium at will. These retractable roofs would become an integral feature in Safdie's subsequent Israeli projects. This project is unbuilt.
Habitat Rochester was developed as a feasibility study for a 1,200-unit residential complex to be sited near downtown Rochester, New York. Complying with the density requirements and budgetary constraints of the U.S. Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and the Urban Development Corporation (UDC), the project's master plan sought to combine high-density site requirements with amenable living conditions for its low- and moderate-income family residents. The project foresaw community facilities such as daycare centres and commercial stores within the complex. Unlike any other Habitat projects, Habitat Rochester was conceived as a cooperative for its residents, who were to partake in aspects of the project's initial design process. Moshe Safdie and John Fujiwara jointly produced the master plan for the project. This project was never realized.
Commissioned by Her Imperial Majesty, the Shahbanou of Iran, Habitat Tehran was intended to provide high-density, middle- to upper-income housing for Iranian officials and members of the Shah's Court in the prestigious Elahieh neighbourhood of Tehran. Safdie combined the standard Habitat features of prefabricated, modular housing units with elements drawn from Iranian culture, notably in the design of an atrium-court and in the attention to in-coming light within each residence. Dwellings were to feature openings in at least three directions, two of which were to face sunrise and sunset as is common in Iranian tradition. The project was halted during its planning stage in 1978.

Copyright © (2001) Canadian Architecture Collection, McGill University