Habitat '67

New York 1967

Puerto Rico 1968
Israel 1969
Rochester 1971
Tehran 1976 
Habitat is located on MacKay Pier (later renamed Cité du Havre), a landfill peninsula bordered on either side by the St. Lawrence River, with views to Montreal's downtown area to the north, and Ile Ste-Hélène to the east. While Safdie's main goal in his thesis project was to establish the criteria for a housing system which could in essence be adapted to diverse site conditions, he did nevertheless favour proximity to downtown and a site with physical beauty. In this respect, the clustered Mediterranean villages he recalled from his youth in Israel were of considerable influence to him.
Conforming to strict city by-laws which maintained that the waterfront area remain visually unobstructed, the design for Habitat New York II conceptualized the project suspended over the water, while encasing a marina, a hotel, a vast shopping complex, offices, and parking for 3000 vehicles on the site's lower levels. The neighbouring area of the site was at the time undeveloped, thus permitting Habitat's expansion should the project be enlarged at a future date.
The first site selected for Habitat Puerto Rico was a twenty-acre lot on a 76-metre (250-foot) high hill in the San Patricio area of San Juan known as Hato Rey. The steep slope of Hato Rey was to have accommodated 600 to 800 housing units at 40 units per acre, thereby meeting the high density living requirements of the moderate-income housing project. The Berwin Farm site, for which a second scheme was developed and some construction begun, was also a hilly terrain. The designs of both schemes maximized views of the panoramic sites, by clustering residences along the steep incline, and locating all of the complex's social elements--its shops, cafés, offices, outdoor amphitheatre and 14-storey high-rise towers--on the hill's summit.
While Habitat Israel was originally conceived to be implemented at multiple sites across the country, its 'test' site, chosen by Safdie, was an area in Jerusalem called Manchat. This particular location provided the architect with the project's two principal design challenges: how to create housing for hilltops (a prevalent feature in Israel) and how to integrate innovative design with the more historic presence of existing Arab hillside establishments. The earlier designs for Habitat Puerto Rico (1968-1970) were similarly conceived for a hilly terrain.
The 30-acre project was to have occupied a site along the Genesee River, within walking distance of Rochester's downtown area. In spite of the project's rigorous high-density requirements (approaching 45 units to the acre), parking and landscaped recreational areas were integral to the plan. Circulation routes were to have separated vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Elevated, open-air walkways traversed the complex, linking residences with the site's commercial and recreational facilities.
Safdie's design followed the topography of its five-and-a-half acre site with its steep slope by building units directly along its incline. In this way, panoramic views overlooking the city of Tehran were maximized for each unit. Particular structural concerns arose due to the seismic conditions of the site, for which the project's engineering consultant, Dr. Komendant, suggested the use of U- and L-shaped modules in place of entire boxes. Such shapes, Dr. Komendant argued, would have provided greater stability and protection against the threat of earthquakes.

Copyright © (2001) Canadian Architecture Collection, McGill University