This week Moshe Safdie celebrated his 75th birthday, as Architizer reminded me. With all my admiration to Architecture Masters, I would like to wish him a very best happy birthday.
Just as Architizer points out, “for better or worse, Habitat ’67 was so influential that Safdie never managed to repeat its success” and even though Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands might ring a bell to you, it is true that his Habitat ’67 has been just too influential, too big, too unforgettable. He has given a Masterpiece to the world, which has required bravery, belief and ambition.
What is Habitat ’67?
Habitat ’67, it all started from a Master’s thesis in Architecture at McGill University. It was then built as a pavilion for the Expo 67, during April and October 1967, and now, still stands next to the Saint Lawrence River in Montreal, Canada. Habitat ’67 is utopia becoming reality, the proof that there is no Master’s thesis, idea or thought small or big enough to not be allowed to become reality.
The feature of Habitat ’67 is in its pioneering the design and implementation of three-dimensional prefabricated units of habitation. The whole complex is created by 354 construction modules connected to create 158 residences. The sizes of those residences can range from 600 square foot one bedroom apartments, to 1,800 square foot four bedroom ones. In total, the whole of Habitat ’67 encompasses 15 different housing types. Set in its own modular placement, almost like a tetris, each residence has its own roof garden, keeping the green element present in the more and more concret-ed cities.
Habitat ’67 was a major symbol of the Expo 67, attended by over 50 million people. The complex gained worldwide acclaim, it was seen as utopia coming to life, as a wonder and fantastic experiment. However, while the surprise and attraction has been enormous, the concept has not been able to grow wide enough roots in today’s Architectural understanding. However, even though is not a widely common technique, I have been seeing more and more new ideas surrounding the concept of prefabricated forms, such as David Fisher’s Dynamic Architecture, mentioned here. I hope to see more and more of such ideas coming alive.
One sure thing is that Safdie’s ideas has contributed to the understand and visualization of urban living, the emergence of container urbanism, and the confirmation of what Brutalism looks like. His architecture is in sintony with his philosophy calling for shaping the public realm, a purpose in architecture, responding to the essence of place, making architecture buildable, building responsibly and humanizing the megascale.
Apart from Habitat ’67, Safdie, born in Israel and moved to Canada with his family when he was 15, contributed widely to the world of Architecture. His links with Israel have remained strong throughout the years. The Yad Vashem Holocaust History Museum, the Mamilla Hotel and shopping strip in Jerusalem are few examples of his contemporary projects in Israel. He has been also quite active in the Asia and the Middle East, there where Architecture is now bursting with life, and one of his most recent and world acclaimed works is the Singapore Marina Bay Sands, which you might remember from my post of some time ago here.