for everyone a garden: moshe safdie's habitat ’67 50 years on

Aug 29, 2021

in 1967, israeli-canadian architect moshe safdie presented his vision of urban living with habitat ’67. built as part of the 1967 world expo in montreal, canada, the pioneering housing project was designed around safdie’s guiding adage,‘for everyone a garden’. the complex is composed of 354 prefabricated concrete forms that are stacked in a pixel-like arrangement to give each apartment access to private outdoor space and connection to nature.

image by timothy hursley, courtesy safdie architects

five decades on, and following an unprecedented global pandemic, the need for improved housing and invigorating outdoor spaces seems more important than ever before. ‘over the past year there has been a rediscovery of the interdependence between nature and society,’  says moshe safdie, founder of safdie architects.‘we have seen an outcry for our basic human needs to be met – access to daylight, outdoor space, connection to nature, and the ritual of public life at all scales. after a year in relative isolation from one another, and the urban habitat at-large, the ideals of habitat ’67 have become ever more relevant as we reimagine the urban landscape.’

image by sam tata, courtesy safdie architects

safdie architects continues to reinterpret the original ideas of habitat ’67 with three of its most recent residential projects across asia and latin america: altair residences in sri lanka, qorner tower in ecuador, and habitat qinhuangdao in china.‘moshe has held steadfast with his thesis for over 50 years, that designing to improve our quality of life must be a priority for the profession,’  says design partner jaron lubin. ‘we are now seeing many of the ideas, once held as mere utopian dreams, becoming a reality. habitat’s legacy has so much more potential yet to explore.’

image by space80,  courtesy safdie architects

set to open in september 2021, altair residences in colombo, sri lanka, reinterprets the stacked form of habitat ’67 into two towers, rising 63 and 69 stories respectively and one leaning against the other. the 400-unit residential complex features roof gardens and terraces, balconies, large windows and openings, and column-free interiors. the project, which will be sri lanka’s tallest residential building and colombo’s first skyscraper, also integrates community gardens, shared outdoor spaces, and 56,000 sqm (600,000 sqft) of public space at ground level.

image courtesy of safdie architects

safdie architects’ qorner tower in quito, ecuador, also plays off habitat ’67 with two rhythmic elevations on the east and west faces made up of double-height landscaped terraces that protrude in and out. the 24-story building is designed to maximize its small site while providing residents with outdoor space that connects with indoor living. similar to altair residences, qorner tower also features large windows and openings and column-free interiors. there’s also a tree-lined infinity pool, a garden and a gathering space on the roof for residents. the project tops out in september 2021 and is slated for completion in early 2022.

image by tim franco, courtesy safdie architects

safdie architects has also begun the second phase of its massive habitat qinhuangdao residential project in china. situated between the urban density of qinhuangdao and the coastline of the bohai sea, the initial development was completed in 2017 and the latest phase will see an additional 1,000 units distributed across two, 30-story terraced buildings. the large scale housing complex is composed of linked blocks that are stepped to provide inhabitants with private outdoor spaces and connection to nature, just like the original habitat ’67. the design also incorporates a host of shared and public spaces including playgrounds and a retail complex. phase 2 of habitat qinhuangdao is set to be complete in 2024.

habitat qinhuangdao in qinhuangdao, china

‘when you stagger and offset units from one another, stepping the buildings away from the sea, you create beautiful terraces that make each unit feel like a penthouse. it takes care to resolve, but the result is the amazing feeling of living in the sky,’  says sean scensor, partner-in-charge of the project for safdie architects. to celebrate phase 2 of the project, client kerry properties commissioned a film that explores the original principles and enduring legacy of habitat ’67. see the full film titled ‘habitat in nature’ here.

project info:

altair residences: client: indocean developers pvt ltd.

design architect: safdie architects

associate architect: design team 3

landscape architect: P landscape

qorner tower: client: uribe and schwarzkopf design architect: safdie architects

associate architect: uribe and schwarzkopf

landscape architect: greenstar landscape

habitat qinhuangdao: client: kerry properties design architect: safdie architects local design institute: china shanghai architectural design & research institute co. ltd landscape architect: WAA landscape architects