“They didn’t have the overhang that we eventually had in the box, but they did allow you to do all the cluster studies and it was very convenient. He originally proposed 1,000 residences in a three dimensional landscape of stacked concrete boxes, each with their own outdoor spaces and connecting “streets” above ground level. And lo and behold we built a building where everybody felt, yeah, that is like being in a house and loved it.”
The 12-storey complex is often referred to as one of the key projects in the Brutalist architecture movement, although Safdie claims its smooth concrete finish actually makes it a reaction against Brutalism. The arrangement of the boxes, garden and streets was developed using 2:1 Lego bricks, which Safdie says offered the perfect scale for cluster studies. Image courtesy of Shutterstock”I wanted Habitat to look like a highly finished sophisticated project, which is why I went to precasting and I worked very hard to get formwork that would give you really a smooth machine-like surface rather than a brutal rough surface and the boxes come together as very pure geometry,” says Safdie. “The only question about Habitat is not whether it is appreciated, it’s can we replicate it because the reaction first of all was this is wonderful but we’ll never be able to do it again.”
“Well today we’re beginning to apply this on a big scale in Singapore and China, in ways that we could not conceive of in the past,” he says. Moshe Safdie. The final interview in our series will be published later this week. Photograph by Timothy HursleyThis is particularly evident in the 30 storey stacked pyramids of the Golden Dream Bay development in Qinhuangdao, China, which combines second homes for inhabitants of nearby cities with permanent family residences. Image courtesy of Shutterstock”We bought out all the Legos in Montreal at the time, because we built many, many alternatives,” he says. “It grew out of my scholarship trip to study housing in north America, where I travelled in 1959 just before doing my thesis,” says Safdie in the movie, which was filmed at the World Architecture Festival earlier this year. “I saw everybody either living in high-rise buildings and hating it or wishing for the suburb if they could afford it and I came to the conclusion that we’ve got to reinvent the apartment building.”
Image courtesy of ShutterstockHe was just 23 and working in the office of Louis Khan when a former tutor suggested he submit the design from his thesis for the 1967 World’s Fair in Montreal.

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