Habitat 67: Cube Housing in Montreal

by Anna Fogel

Source: Habitat 67

In response to a post on the Cube Houses in Rotterdam a few months ago, a reader commented that they reminded her of Habitat 67, another cube-inspired housing project. I decided to look into the concept, design and current status of Habitat 67. The project was initially designed for Expo 67, the 1967 world’s fair in Montreal, where housing was one of the main themes. Moshe Safdie designed Habitat 67 while an architecture student at McGill University.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Although they are visually and architecturally different, I immediately recognized the resemblance the reader had seen between the Cube Houses and Habitat 67. Habitat 67 is a community of 146 homes composed of 354 greyish cubes. It forces us to consider the cube in a new light, much as the Rotterdam Cube Houses do, and to consider the meaning behind the cube as an architectural base. The Cube Houses convey dynamic whimsy in their positioning, whereas Habitat 67 maintains an unconventional pragmatism and stability.

Source: Canadian Architecture Collection (CAC), McGill University

The Cube Houses and Habitat 67 focus on creating a community of cubes, both overlooking ports (Habitat 67 overlooks the Old Port of Montreal, and the Cube Houses overlook the Old Port of Rotterdam). Both complexes focus inwards in many ways, with internal shared common spaces, gardens and walkways, while communicating externally with anyone who passes by.

Source: Habitat 67

Safdie's design offers quality high-density living space. While he also hoped to create a model of affordable housing, high demand has pushed up the price of these homes. Like the Cube Houses, Habitat 67 is still inhabited, and residents continue to adapt it to their lifestyles and needs.

This is part of a collection of featured places from around the world. If you’d like to share photos of a place you find interesting, please add them to the Flickr group or send them to info@thepolisblog.org and we’ll publish your feature. Video and sound recordings are also welcome.

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  1. Hi all,

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  2. I saw Habitat several times over the years, and it returns to my mind when thinking about urban housing issues. With some modifications, the basic idea could have great appeal for modern times. Say the parking was underground, and the design could be opened up more at ground level, providing a park -like feel below and around the bulk of the structure. With a little color added to provide more of a pattern, this could be a fairly dense population center that spreads out and interacts with the earth below, unlike a tall tower. Some semi-translucent panels over the open decks and roofs could provide solar energy.

  3. And don't forget the stacked cube "courtyard" houses of Carrière Centrale in Casablanca (ATBAT-Afrique, members of Team 10), c. 1953!