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A look at brutalist icon Habitat ’67 and its enduring legacy

The complex in Montreal continues to influence architecture all over the world

It’s amazing when you consider that the now-iconic Habitat ’67 housing complex in Montreal was completed when its architect Moshe Safdie was just 28 years old. Or that the project was borne out of the Israeli-Canadian’s master thesis project in architecture at McGill University a couple years before that.

Debuting at the Expo ’67 World’s Fair, Habitat ’67 was considered at the time, “the Guggenheim Bilbao of its day, hugely famous and widely regarded as the shape of things to come.” And it’s not hard to see why.

The apartment complex comprises 354 prefabricated concrete modules that are stacked together in various configurations over 12 stories, with elevated walkways, rooftop gardens, and other spaces filling out the sprawling structure. Originally making up 158 residences, today there are about 146 units, each with its own private terrace. In designing Habitat ’67, Safdie wanted the apartments to foster a sense of community while also offering privacy and outdoor living space.

Over the years, the influence of Montreal’s (arguably) most famous building can be seen in new developments all over the world, including Stefano Boeri’s “vertical forest” in Milan, New York’s 56 Leonard by Herzog & de Meuron, and BIG’s 8 House on the outskirts of Copenhagen. Watch the video above to get a closer look.