Iconic modular apartment complex celebrates 50th anniversary

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Building modular is not a new concept. And while building technology has come far and we have greater flexibility in design, every now and then it’s nice to reflect and appreciate the exemplary pioneers.

Modular building Habitat 67 in Montreal, Canada celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and one of the apartments has undergone a beautiful interior renovation that we love. The redesign is fresh and crisp yet remains sympathetic to its iconic brutalist origins. 

Interior design studio EMarchitecture completed the renovation of the two-storey apartment which sees the retention of the concrete ceiling. The raw material is celebrated in the double-height kitchen space and appreciated from the upper level living room and library area.

“The apartment has been designed to respect the original cubic structure of the building, while encouraging a seamless flow through dedicated rooms,” says the designer. Floor to ceiling windows offer spectacular views of the Old Port in Montreal and the Habitat building itself.

Habitat 67, designed by Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie, was presented at the 1967 World Expo as an experiment in the possibilities of prefabricated modular units for high-quality housing in dense urban environments.  Though most Expo pavilions are disassembled upon the Expo’s completion, Habitat 67 retained its original purpose and continues to serve as a successful housing complex.

The apartment complex was constructed from 354 identical and completely prefabricated modules stacked in various combination and connected by steel cables. The modules interlock in a variety of configurations, producing units of varying sizes and levels. Innovative at a time where density living involved large orthogonal towers crammed full of apartments, the project integrated the qualities of a suburban home into an urban high-rise. Each apartment has a roof garden, a constant flow of fresh air and a maximum of natural light – qualities that were unprecedented for a twelve storey apartment complex.

For the enormous crowds attending the Expo fifty years ago and the flock of architectural fans visiting it ever since, Habitat has been a manifestation of the potential of prefabrication. It’s great to see the apartments are still lovingly appreciated and transformed into modern and beautiful spaces fit for the 21st Century.