Habitat 67: Montreal's beautiful 'Legoland' housing estate

Proof that 'human brutalism' can work

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When we think of 1960s modernist housing we tend to picture high-rise blocks on grim estates, with crumbling exteriors and lifts that don’t work. 
 
But some buildings from that period took a very different course. And no more so than Habitat 67, a sprawling ‘legoland’ block in the old port area of Montreal, Canada. 
 
The building was designed especially for the Expo by Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie, who, after touring the USA and being disturbed by the sight of Le Corbusier-influenced mega-blocks, wanted to create something a little more human. Something, in fact, made of interconnecting cubes.
 
In 2014 he described Habitat 67 as “a building which gives the qualities of a house to each unit – it would be all about gardens, contact with nature, streets instead of corridors”.
 
The building is an example of Metabolism, whose proponents thought that buildings should be made of linked, ready-made ‘cells’.
 
However, despite these good intentions, the building’s concrete construction meant that water damage soon became endemic, something that residents of Britain’s post-war housing estates were familiar with. By the 1980s, this publicly-funded building was in private hands. But it was this that saved it.
 
Today, Habitat 67’s stock has risen once more with apartments for sale to the sort of young professionals who’ve made London’s Trellick Tower their own. 
 
Maybe Moshe Sadie was on to something.
 
 







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