Habitat ’67: Critique on a Classic & Its Modern Interpretations Posted on March 17, 2022 (March 17, 2022) by Admin Futurarc Years2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 FuturArc Webinar Series Survey FAQ 30-day free access to FuturArc App FuturArc Special Offer Guess & Win CategoriesMain Feature City Profile Showcase Commentary Showcase / 1st Quarter 2022 Habitat ’67: Critique on a Classic & Its Modern Interpretations by Bhawna Jaimini March 17, 2022 Aerial view of Habitat ’67 as seen from the back, showing its structural core and connecting corridors. Photo courtersy of Safdie Architects Habitat ’67 is perhaps one of the most recognised and iconic modern housing complexes around the world. The Israel-born Canadian architect Moshe Safdie first developed the concept of Habitat ’67 for his thesis while studying in McGill University in 1961 and submitted the project to Montreal Expo 67 two years later, while he was still working in the office of architect Louis I Kahn. Safdie got the inspiration to design Habitat ’67 as a response to the grim reality of apartment complexes and unsustainable urban sprawl that defined much of the 1960s in North America. Housing architecture in those days was mostly either tall brutalist buildings with apartments stacked on each other without common spillages or suburban row housing with front and backyards but without the vibrancy of streets to look over. With Habitat ’67, Safdie did more than just combine the two, resulting in a unique concept in urban living that will inspire generations to come. The initial master plan of Habitat ’67 was much bigger in scale—over 1,000 residences along with common amenities like a school and shop—than the built 158 houses in 12-storey interconnected structures. Photo by Jerry Spearman; courtesy of Safdie Architects Photo courtesy of Safdie Architects Top: Moshe Safdie; Bottom: Construction in progress Close-up of the terraced apartment spaces. Photo by Sam Tata; courtesy of Safdie Architects The building, which has been given heritage status today, was the embodiment of Safdie’s expression “for everyone a garden”. Although the socialist underpinning of the concept is still debated in the sense of who it was actually meant for—the working class or the middle class—it will not be an exaggeration to say that it was never meant to be luxury living to be experienced by the riches of the city. Safdie truly wanted to make the experience of urban living more enjoyable for everyone, advocating for more space and light for every city dweller. However, like every architect of the generation before him, Safdie made the same mistake of thinking that good design alone is enough to translate to equality and equity in the distribution of housing. RELATED STORY: Main Feature | Homes, not Houses The spiralling cost of construction made Habitat ’67 a white elephant for all the parties involved. Adele Weder, a Canadian architect and journalist, wrote in detail about the failings of Habitat ’67 as a ‘low-cost’ housing in The Walrus magazine in 2008. The high cost was mainly attributed to the structural system of the complex, which needed each component to be prefabricated in a factory that was especially set up for the project. Looking back, the idea was ahead of its time since prefabrication was many years away from becoming mainstream. However, it is poignantly clear why Safdie—a man in his twenties then with a vision—pushed for the technology even with the rising cost. Prefabrication of all the components would have helped Habitat ’67 proliferate around the world, which was the core value and vision of his thesis. After more than five decades of Habitat ’67, many other versions or iterations have come up around the world, but not in the same way Safdie—or his thesis—would have intended. ALTAIR RESIDENCESCOLOMBO, SRI LANKA The tower is made up of diagonally jutting balconies overlooking the city. Photo by Space80; courtesy of Safdie ArchitectsSection The recently completed Altair Residences brings modular apartment living to the Indian subcontinent. The skyscraper, which appears to have one tower leaning towards the other against the picturesque backdrop of Colombo, has 400 residential units overlooking the Beira Lake. Taking its cue from the terraced gardens of Habitat ’67, Altair Residences has a communal sky garden atop the 63-storey tower. Marketed to the ultra-rich class, the units, with areas ranging from 1,500 square feet to 4,000 square feet, are currently being sold at the price of USD500,000 to USD700,000. According to an article published by Financial Times, most of the housing market in Colombo—the capital of Sri Lanka—caters to Sri Lankans living abroad, foreign buyers and locally-based high net-worth individuals, resulting in empty housing stock along with shortage of affordable housing. Looking at the housing scenario of a developing nation like Sri Lanka, Altair Residences seems to have come far away from the original inspiration that challenged the existing housing norms and pushed the boundaries of the very idea of apartment living—it neatly replicates the architecture of Habitat ’67, but without the core values that created the architecture in the first place. PROJECT DATA ClientIndocean Developers Pvt Ltd CompletionSeptember 2021 Area139,355 square metres Associate ArchitectDesign Team 3 Structural Design ConsultantDerby Design MEP DesignerCKR Specialist Lighting ConsultantStudio Lumen Vertical Transportation ConsultantBarker Mohandas Fire EngineersFPC Wind Analysis ConsultantRWDI Landscape ConsultantP Landscape QORNER TOWERQUITO, ECUADOR Qorner Tower’s irregular façade hides behind it a perimeter concrete frame that is designed to withstand earthquake damage. Images courtesy of Safdie ArchitectsSection Qorner Tower is a 24-storey residential building currently under construction in the city of Quito—the capital of the South American nation of Ecuador, known for being surrounded by active volcanoes. The artistic impressions and renderings of the building appear to be a playful arrangement of cuboids spilling into terraced gardens looking to break the monotony of tall grey buildings that make up most of the modern construction in the city. Qorner Tower does a good job of retaining the playfulness of Habitat ’67 through the play of volumes opening into terraced gardens, which are designed to eventually mimic the greenery outside and function as ‘plantscrapper’ to enable offsetting its carbon footprint later. However, there has been no data to prove how and when this will happen. For a building of its scale—127,000 square feet of built space—it seems like the project will have to do more than just natural ventilation and vertical plant wall to be a sustainable endeavour, especially in an increasingly climate-vulnerable world where the novelty of skyscrapers is soon wearing out. PROJECT DATA ClientUribe and Schwarzkopf Expected CompletionSpring 2022 Area127,000 square feet Design ArchitectSafdie Architects Associate ArchitectUribe and Schwarzkopf Landscape ArchitectGreenstar Landscape HABITAT QINHUANGDAOCHINA Exterior perspective. Photo courtesy of Kerry Properties Section Habitat Qinhuangdao is a high-density housing complex situated 200 miles away from Beijing, the capital of China, between the city of Qinhuangdao and the coast of Bohai Sea. It is organised into a series-linked residential blocks along the shore. The 16-storey-high blocks are designed to accommodate the growing urban population of Qinhuangdao, who want to stay connected to the city and yet enjoy the countryside. The complex is marketed to the burgeoning middle class of China as relief from the cramped and closed urban centres. However, the units are priced on the higher side of the spectrum, pegging the development as middle- to high-income housing. Phase II of the project will add 1,000 units distributed across two 30-storey terraced buildings, doubling the capacity of Phase I, which opened in 2017. PROJECT DATA ClientKerry Properties Expected Completion2024 (Phase 1 of the development completed in 2017) Design ArchitectSafdie Architects Local Design InstituteChina Shanghai Architectural Design & Research Institute Co. Ltd Landscape ArchitectWAA Landscape Architects AreaPhase 1: 152,450 square metres;Phase 2: 244,000 square metres;Sales office: 5,500 square metres Façade ConsultantKonstruct West Partners Façade Design InstituteZhe Jiang Zhong Nan Construction Group Co., Ltd. Interior DesignersBC&A International Ltd.; Yasha Landscape Design ArchitectSWA Group Landscape Design InstitutesAger Group; DQLand Lighting Design ConsultantsLam Partners; Brandston Partnership Inc.[This is an excerpt. Subscribe to the digital edition or hardcopy to read the complete article.] Bhawna Jaimini is a writer and urban practitioner based in Mumbai, India. Trained as an architect, she currently works with Community Design Agency on projects that seek to improve the built habitats of some of the most marginalised communities in India’s urban areas, using participatory tools. She is deeply passionate about gender rights and using architecture and design to address issues of social inequality and inequity in these areas. READ MORE: In Conversation | Safdie Architects: Charu Kokate Safdie Architects: Charu Kokate | FuturArc Charu Kokate is a Partner at Safdie Architects and Director of the Singapore office. She grew up in India before moving to the United States where she finished her Masters in Architecture from Pennsylvania State University. Kokate has led an impressive number of projects across the world, including… Read more stories from FuturArc 1Q 2022: Housing Asia! To read the complete article, get your hardcopy at our online shop/newsstands/major bookstores; subscribe to FuturArc or download the FuturArc App to read the issues. 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