Thursday Doors – October 12, 2017

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing it, between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American eastern time), by using the blue link-up button below. 

Habitat 67 – Montréal

Okay folks I will be the first to admit that this post is going to be a little sparse on doors and that among the doors included this week, 0% of them are sexy 😀

However, this post does contain some fascinating history and one of the most original and iconic pieces of Montréal architecture ever produced.

But first a little backstory:

In 1967 as part of the celebrations for Canada’s centennial, Montréal was chosen to host the World’s Fair.

Opening in April, Expo 67 was a resounding success with over fifty million visitors going through its turnstiles in six months; making it to this day one of the top three best attended fairs in history.

Fast-forward fifty years and the legacy of Expo 67 lives on in our city through a number of the iconic structures that were built for it.  Arguably the most famous of these is the urban residential design experiment known as Habitat 67.

The brainchild of Israeli/Canadian Moshe Safdie, Habitat 67 started out as his Architectural Masters Thesis project at McGill University. A few years later at the relatively young age of 25, Safdie was given the green light to turn a modified version of his baby into a reality and then show it off to the world.

As one of the primary pavilions for Expo 67, Habitat used modern design elements and building materials to present the world with another option to avoid urban sprawl, one that didn’t include high-rise apartment towers.

The intent of the project was to provide affordable living spaces within densely populated areas that were both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

Safdie used 354 prefabricated concrete cubes of 600 sq ft (60 sq m) of living space, stacked over 12 stories in seemingly random patterns, interconnected to make up a total of 158 separate, one to four-bedroom apartments.

The goal was to provide each resident with views on three sides, relative privacy by deliberately stacking the cubes in such a way that there were no direct views into adjoining cubes, and giving it all less of an urban feel with each unit having its own private outdoor garden/terrace space, by using part of the roof of the cube below it.

The affordability aspect of the project was a failure. Using new, untested and unproven construction techniques, cost overruns were inevitable. At the end of Expo 67 all the apartments were offered up for rent.

However, because of the overall cost of the project, rents being charged for these apartments were 3-4 times that of similar sized living spaces elsewhere in the city.

Despite the cost issues, from a design originality and innovation point of view, Habitat 67 has always been widely respected in architectural circles; so when we heard that guided tours of the complex were available this year for the 50th anniversary of Expo 67, we jumped at the opportunity.

Though we would have preferred nicer weather, we had a wonderful day visiting this unique structure.

As an added bonus we were able to visit one the currently uninhabited single-cube one-bedroom units to get a closer look.

 It was difficult to get good shots with 19 other people inside a one-bedroom apartment but here are some of the ones I got:

Not much has changed in this unit since 1967! But hey, note the pocket door on the right.

Another space-saving pocket door.

A nice view to wake up to each morning.

Built on a man-made peninsula that shelters the Old Port from the faster currents of the St-Lawrence River, residents are afforded beautiful views of downtown on one side

Semi- selfie (doorfie) and a peek at the city through the fog.

and the seaway and south shore suburbs on the other.

Urban surfing dudes! Riding a standing wave in the river on the south shore side.

In 1985 the tenants of Habit 67 formed a limited partnership and purchased the building from the government agency that owned it. Today the building consists of 146 individual apartments.

A sneak peek inside a unit undergoing extensive renovations

If you find the modular design makes you think of Lego blocks you’re not alone. Safdie himself admitted to using Legos for some of his initial models of the project. Many years later in 2012, Habitat 67 won a worldwide online Lego architecture poll, adding it to a list of famous buildings made into a special replica Lego set.

So you love it and want to move in? Well, I hope you have a big piggy bank 😉 Based on what I found online, today a typical 2 bedroom unit lists for well over $1,000,000 CDN!

Not exactly in-line with Safdie’s idea for affordable housing 😦

As for peoples’ opinions of Habit 67; it seems to be one of those all or nothing architectural projects.

Either you love it for it’s bold innovative design and desire to bring people closer to nature within in the city.

Or you hate it for its over-use of bleak beige concrete and its blocky angular lines.

Though I doubt I’d want to live there myself, I do appreciate the uniqueness of the place.

What do you think? Is Habitat 67 the kind of apartment living you could get used to?

As always, thanks so much for visiting 🙂

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About Norm 3.0

World’s youngest grumpy old man & heart failure wonder boy. Interests: writing, woodworking, photography, travel, tennis, wine, and I know a bit about power tools.
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87 Responses to Thursday Doors – October 12, 2017

  1. Pingback: Thursday Doors ~ from random travels 11.16.17 – Eat.Pray.Love.Travels

  2. Pingback: Thursday Doors – October 12, 2017 | Netdancer's Musings

  3. prior.. says:

    Hey norm – just fyi – prior=house will have a door post go live, but I won;t be able to link it to the inlinkz until later that door or Friday morning – hope that is cool…
    and see ya then –

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That is probably one of the only structures I have seen so truly unique

    Liked by 1 person

  5. dweezer19 says:

    While the architecture is unique, it is very cold and unimaginative inside. Great photos though!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. That is a very cool building. But with that price, I wouldn’t live there.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. dimlamp says:

    I’m a fan of Moshe Safdie’s buildings, especially the National Gallery of Canada and Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel, both of which I’ve had the privilege of visiting. Habitat 67 reminds me a lot of some of the architecture you find in Israel.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. willowdot21 says:

    Great photos Norman and such an inivitive building yet I find it ugly. It doesn’t appear to age well. I couldn’t live there though my grandchildren would love it. As you say very close to giant Lego.😀

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I find the architecture quite interesting and somewhat appealing. However, the concrete and color make it feel more like a commercial building than a home to me, but I can see how the gardens may lessen that feeling. Thanks for the tour!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. prior.. says:

    I have so much to say here, Norm.
    Which is what a great post does – it invokes all this thought.
    first of all – laughing at the “sexy door” term – cos true that – some doors are just down right sexy and smooth….
    but your disclaimer that they were 0% was subjective and I disagree.
    you gave a pocket door – the other doors throughout and then my fav….
    it was the door with the reno apartment – and your photo of it was artsy cool.
    Is that too much to say for that photo? I think not. Let me explain why.
    and I feel the freedom to do that here cos you are the door master… lol
    so the dark color of the door with brass accessories – the trio of brass with some nice curves – nice.
    Then – the building metal structure at the top adds interest and pulls you into the layers of the Habitat – and the stucco gives texture. Then we have the broom – red – and on an angle – pulling us in – through a dirty window – but with a curious glow – and whoa – are those doors to the back left in the hall. I think so. and then perhaps a couch – whispering of living and comfort and what lies behind this dark door with brass trim. And I guess I like the lines throughout – even the floor entrance adds to it.
    enough on that door.
    and yes, I could absolutely live in a place like this. Especially cos it seems so solid.
    but would want a little more space than the unit you showed us – and the cost is out of my price range big time.

    but what a cool place – makes me wonder what we would have it more artist/architects could bring their visions to life.
    and makes me realize that world fair’s can have many good ripples in a community – as a opposed to hosting the Olympics – which I heard folks don’t want to do that anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Well, I don’t know about living here, but for sure I’d love to visit as you did. At first glance I don’t hate it, it’s quirky and the kind of insane that I like. I might love it more after I see how it is positioned in the city, and make sure that the neighbours can’t see what you’re up to all the times… This seems a danger somehow. I love the red doorfie!

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Love the red doorfie! And some of the views from up top are lovely! Even in the rain 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Vanessa says:

    I think it’s quite beautiful in its own way. Love the design, though I’d definitely prefer a less institutional-looking building material. Great photos, Norm!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. It’s an interesting building. I like the way it’s shaped, the Lego-like structure, but find it a bit subdued. I wonder what it would look like in a more, shall we say, vibrant color or a lighter material… I haven’t seen much of Safdie’s work, but the Skirball Center here in Santa Monica, also designed by him, was a bit disappointing to me. While it has some beautiful internal spaces, the outside is quite severe-looking and uninviting. It made me think of Soviet architecture, although I know very little about it. Lots of concrete, it feels like you’re entering a prison, or that you shouldn’t trespass those walls… No offense to anyone who likes Safdie’s work and/or Soviet architecture… In short, no, I would not live there, but would gladly visit it for an architectural photography shoot. Like you did, obviously. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Norm 2.0 says:

      Thanks Angela. I just looked up the Skirball Center – interesting.
      Your Soviet comment is spot-on. It always come to mind for me whenever I look at this place. The material is just so bleak.
      My favourite Safdie design is The National Gallery in Ottawa. So many windows and so much natural light! Very different from Habitat.
      If you’re curious, check out his Marina Bay in Singapore. It’s a very bold design.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. reocochran says:

    Norm, who says this isn’t a sexy building? 😊 I really like the way this appears and it would be cool to have certain kinds of musical, artistic and creative people live here and maybe once a year have an open house, charge $20 to listen, see and enjoy the atmosphere here.
    I like the way the concept came about. I would like to include solar panels without it detracting from the design. This would be an amazing hotel or place to stay for vacation. People could regain some of the large cost by renting or having open houses. 🎆 🖼 🌃

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I remember reading about Habitat67 years ago but didn’t get a chance to see it when we were in Montreal last year so I really appreciate the tour! I don’t think I’d like to live there, but I appreciate the design innovations that went into it. It’s always a challenge to keep affordable housing affordable. Pretty soon, market forces take over and the rent or purchase price becomes whatever people are willing to pay.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Sherry Felix says:

    Reminds me of some of the post WWII architecture in London. Not a fan. Nice idea if it wasn’t concrete.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. amoralegria says:

    We saw this structure from our ship as it docked at Montreal last week and I wondered what it was! So I appreciate the virtual tour, since our short time in Montreal was spent mostly in Vieux Montreal. So those who would like to see some of Old Montreal, my Thursday doors post features Montreal doors!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Norm 2.0 says:

      Thank you! I commented on your post but I think WordPress is sending my comments to spam again. You may have to go into your pending comments folder and release me from jail 😉


  19. Tara says:

    I could get used to that. I’d have to add things to soften all those hard edges. What a wacky building!

    I’m totes going to post a door, but I have to do it from home. The antiquated computer thingys at work don’t have a photo editing program and I need a wee crop off the bottom of mine. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  20. jesh stg says:

    The inside of the apartment looks ultra modern! Have seen a building like this in one of the suburbs of L.A. – wonder if it’s the same architect… Our last house in South. Cal was in a condo – prime location, very nice interior, and with much landscaping. I recognize the kind of living, the close proximity of so many others living around me, felt I had no privacy. I rather rough it and keep the doors open when the weather is nice:)

    Liked by 1 person

  21. bikerchick57 says:

    I could live in the apartment with that pretty rooftop patio, but could not pay the price for it. It’s a very unique place with awesome views and I’m sure the current occupants are happy with where they live. Thanks for sharing this, Norm. Very interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. joey says:

    Those are neat! I love it! I mean, despite money, I wouldn’t live in it, not my thing, but truly extraordinary in its ingenuity! What a great share 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  23. It looks really different, and the views that you show from the flats looking out look very nice. But, and this is a big but, I would hate to spend my days walking through these brutal corridors and doors. There’s something very 60s about it: wonderful spaces but horrible material.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Wow quite pricey! I do like the design but not the material – concrete is in fashion where I live and I’ve never been a fan. If only it were in a cozier material. Nice post, Norm! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Lynne Ayers says:

    I enjoyed this review, Norm. I was living in Montreal during Expo and I recall that Habitat created quite a stir and was definitely not loved by all. It seems though that he was ahead of his time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Norm 2.0 says:

      Thanks Lynne. Still ahead of his time perhaps. This style of housing never caught on, but then since the affordable part of the equation never materialized, perhaps it’s to be expected 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  26. Aimer Boyz says:

    Thanks for the inside peak, Norm. I’ve always loved the Habitat buildings. So futuristic even all these years later.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. GeorgieMoon says:

    Wow! What an amazing building! A fascinating story.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Nato says:

    So interesting! I looks cool and fun. I admit, I would not want to live in an apartment though. I like some space and privacy most times, and a bit of a yard. But for those who like the city, this seems to offer a bit of nature to town:)

    Liked by 1 person

  29. tinahomeblog says:

    Love Habitat 67 !! And those terraces…amazing ! I could see myself living there. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. The views, and garden terraces are really nice. It’s definitely an eye-catching building. Too modern/contemporary for my taste, but it’s got a wonderful story. How do those extended blocks/rooms stay up?! I kept wondering what’s supporting those blocks?

    I like pocket doors. I had a nice glass paned one put in when we remodeled a few years ago. I’m glad I didn’t let anyone talk me out of it.

    I liked your selfie in the red door. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Norm 2.0 says:

      Thanks Deborah. The overhanging blocks still have a good chunk of their mass sitting on the block below and they are anchored into it at the corners. It was more complicated to do than he expected which was part of the reason for cost overruns.
      I have always loved pocket doors – I think the idea is so cool. I have never had any myself but maybe one day 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  31. A most unusual place, Norm! I wouldn’t want to live there but it makes a great subject for the camera. Nice work!

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Joanne Sisco says:

    You’re right – all that concrete looks bleak, but it grabbed my attention when you mentioned the units had terraces. I think I would have considerable difficulty adjusting to having no outdoor space if I was to move.
    The price point though is crazy. I really don’t know how young people today can possibly hope to be home owners without inheriting it.

    Interestingly, Habitat67 was on my list of things to visit if/when I get to Montreal. Thanks for the preview 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Norm 2.0 says:

      Thanks Joanne. I recommend the guided tour if it’s still available when you do make into town.
      I think the higher demand because of the novelty factor has probably inflated the market prices by a good 30% in this case, but I agree, I don’t know how young families can afford to buy if they don’t have help.

      Liked by 1 person

  33. Jackie says:

    My Dad worked as an electrician at Habitat when it was being built!

    Liked by 1 person

  34. slfinnell says:

    Oh goodness! I remember that structure from a textbook cover in school __ years ago lol Must have had a lot of homework out of that book. Very interesting read and photos!

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Susi Lovell says:

    There were guided tours of Habitat 67? I must check if they are still being offered. I’d love to see inside! Lucky you getting an inside glimpse.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Norm 2.0 says:

      Thanks Susi. Here’s the link to buy tickets for the tours:
      They run weekdays only for two more weeks.
      If you can’t make it before they stop for the season, keep the link on file. Our guide was saying that the tours were so popular this summer they are working with the owners association to see if they can do it again next year.


  36. Dan Antion says:

    I think if I was younger and had a cool million to spend, I might like living there. I like some of the design elements, particularly having few common walls. I’m not sure about someone having a garden over my living space. I hope reducing noise was designed in. I do like pocket doors, but you lose the space to hang things.

    Thanks for talking us on the tour.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Interesting architecture and stunning views. But, I’m with you – I wouldn’t want to live there.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Thanks for this very interesting tour. It’s a little out of my housing budget, but with the outdoor patio/garden area, I’d give it a try. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  39. Vicky says:

    A fascinating tour with an interesting history, thank you for sharing. The concrete box effect brings to mind a lot of UK’s inner cities ( in the rain they all look drab), but I like the fact that everyone has a terrace and the views seem pretty amazing. If you have to live in the city and have $$$$, lots of $$$$ to buy one, then I’d paint my door red! The red door counteracts the concrete!

    Liked by 1 person

  40. Incredible building – it looks to blocky from the outside, yet the views of the roof gardens etc from the other direction make it look more homely. Great shots!


  41. scooj says:

    Absolutely stunning in my view, a really interesting ‘modern’ project. A great post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Norm 2.0 says:

      Thanks Stephen and welcome to Thursday Doors! I commented on your post but I think my comment was bounced into the WordPress spam filter. I have been having problems with that for some time now. Sorry but you may need to go into the comments section of the administrator retrieve/approve my comment for this first time.
      Cheers 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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