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Case Studies, Residential

Modular architecture: A case-study of Habitat 67 by Safdie Architects.

Modular architecture: A case-study of Habitat 67 by Safdie Architects

Habitat 67 by Safdie architects is an attempt to flush modern-day living with high-density housing using visually treating elements like stepped elevations. Moshie Safdie conceptualized Habitat 67 for his master-level academic thesis at McGill University. A former thesis advisor advised Safdie to develop Habitat’s master plan for the world fair of Expo 67 at Montreal. Thus, Safdie modified his planning and modified his thesis for pavilion design

Fact-File:

  • Architects: Safdie Architects.
  • Location: Montreal, Quebec.
  • Year: 1967, Built.
  • Size: 238,000 sq.ft, 22,160 sq.m
  • Clients: Canadian Corporation for the 1967 world exhibition.
  • Awards: National heritage building designation, Quebec minister of culture, 2009. Prix Duxxe Siecle, The best building of the 20th Century, Royal architectural institute of Canada, 2007, Massey medal, Royal architectural institute of Canada, 1968.
The legacy of Habitat 67, Canada © Wikimedia

Also Read related article: The Sky Habitat – The matrix of homes by Safdie Architects

History

Moshie Safdie conceptualized Habitat 67 for his master-level academic thesis at McGill University. A former thesis advisor advised Safdie to develop Habitat’s master plan for the world fair of Expo 67 at Montreal. Thus, Safdie modified his planning and modified his thesis for pavilion design. These plans had added colossal detailing. Not only did the government sanction the plans in Ottawa but also praised Safdie for meticulosity. Thus, Safdie won the opportunity to work as a principal architect. Despite his youth and professional novelty, Safdie gathered his skills for constructing the Habitat.

Modular architecture: A case-study of Habitat 67 by Safdie Architects
Safdie’s conceptual sketch as he perceived the habitat © Safdie Architects

Owing to land-mark demonstrations, Habitat explores an understanding of urban housing. In addition to sourcing suitable materials, Habitat incorporates prefabricated construction. This complex is financed by the federal government. Limited partnership tenants control the complex today.

The Concept of Habitat 67

Habitat 67 plays with 365 identical, prefabricated concrete masses. Not only does it explore their permutations, but also combines them to form 12-storied structures. Though these units are joined by 1-8 concrete blocks, each of them offers diversity. Though they are differently sized and proportioned, the house 146 families. The first-hand Habitat had 158 residences, but, a grouping of homes reduced its total number. Each unit gets the advantage of at least one private green space that ranges from 20 to 90 sq.m in size.

Modular architecture: A case-study of Habitat 67 by Safdie Architects
Conceptual model making, Moshe Safdie : Safdie Architects © Bettmann / Corbis

Aspects of design:

  1. Purpose: Habitat aims to satisfy the end-user. Consequently, it re-imagines its function of a dense-village-like living in its spatial configuration.
  2. Tectonics: Habitat pledges to evolve its form. Thus, it involves the roots and topography of the place it stands on.
  3. Context: Habitat vows to experience the structure. Therefore, it synchronizes with its context and not as an independent entity.
Modular architecture: A case-study of Habitat 67 by Safdie Architects
Aspects of design © Google Images

Habitat 67 visualizes gardens as modern hanging green spaces for its stepped modules. Thus, the belief that the site guides the plan is what pushes the Lego-like geometry to assign spaces.

Illustration of the lego-like geometries of the habitat © Uncube magazine

Habitat 67 illustrates the use of a single basic shape. Even if the spaces are deliberately organized, the architect privatizes each space uniquely. Thus, it boosts circulation and creates an atmosphere apt for public spaces. Habitat 67 features connections that develop variety to the apartment culture by 20 X 40 X 10 feet rectilinear volumes. During its construction phase, these volumes were a quantum jump to prefabricated modules. Hence, they were mass-produced. They not only challenged the architect to work with similar masses but also prevented negotiating on circulation and private spaces in an urban fabric.

Also Read: RODOVRE SKY VILLAGE – New tower in Rødovre

The development of the Habitat 67:

Habitat 67 merges the livings of suburban homes to modernity while experimenting with natural designs for modifying needs. The building welcomes fresh air. In addition to this, it maintains gardens, respects privacy, and keeps the surroundings alive. Multi-levelled settings boost economics. Consequently, they provide the back-drop of a modern apartment building against ethnic modules. The structure makes on-the-ball arrangements for child play throughout its area and highlights both shaded and semi-enclosed spaces.

The continuous pedestrian streets © Great Buildings

Three vertical cores direct the vertical circulation throughout the complex. These thrusts pause at every fourth level and handle interaction as pedestrian streets. These streets help access the dwellings, owing to their continuity and movement pattern throughout the structure. Covered and semi-covered car parking for tenants is the crux of Habitat’s amenity area brief. It reserves a large area of parking as an added visitor space, specially crafted on-purpose.

The compositions and combinations of the stepped modules ensure that every building welcomes its share of relaxations. Equal access to sun and air circulation alongside a private terrace garden covers the user in solitude. With the help of garden units, Habitat manages to secure enticing amenities within the purview of modernism. These free-standing homes react to brutalism and move towards high-rise villages. Sadie himself describes Habitat 67 as an attempt to upscale from the micro to the mega.

Modular architecture: A case-study of Habitat 67 by Safdie Architects
The construction phase of Habitat 67 © Flickr

The construction phase:

The structure uses three-dimensional modular units as its prime material. These units used 5000psi concrete, steam-curing, and steel mold casting. During this process, materials were transported, finished, and polished in the finishing area. These components, fixtures, and finishes used the assembly line method for their installation to structure the Habitat. Insulation and a variety of wall finishes line the internal surfaces of these units. A larger share of the components required for the Habitat, like the bath and the kitchen, were prefabricated. Even before the roof connections, these units, installed as single completed boxes, gave the Habitat its form.

The modular units of the Habitat align themselves in such a manner that consecutive walls, floors, and ceilings of houses remain diverse. This separation not only ensures effective absorption of sound but also facilitates insulation by vibration and dynamic loads.

Modular architecture: A case-study of Habitat 67 by Safdie Architects
The restored interiors with wall-finish, Habitat 67 © Dezeen

The material selection in Habitat 67:

The chief material for the Habitat for its varied advantages was concrete that suited the purpose. Because of concrete, it was possible to seal places properly, equip the exterior, and make the structure fire-proof. The single-unit bathrooms have multi-material palettes that include gel-coated fiberglasses. Kitchens by Frigidaire and window frames of Geon Plastic help achieve contrast with the concrete boxes. A factory constructed on-site fabricated the box modules. This factory covered an area of 600 sq. ft roughly in size. The fabricated concrete modules were lifted and stacked by cranes and post-tensioned to achieve the stepped form.

Modular architecture: A case-study of Habitat 67 by Safdie Architects
The concrete modules of Habitat 67 © Jade Doskow

Also Read: Turning Torso in Sweden by Architect Santiago Calatrava

The restoration phase:

Habitat 67 acclaimed its 50th anniversary in November 2018. On this day, Safdie architects undertook an all-inclusive restoration cycle to counter all the issues. This restoration progressed on the publically accessible unit of the Habitat 67, on the 10th floor of the structure. All the repairs to the duplex complex required a time-soaring period of two years. They incorporated extensive interior upgrades to tackle the issues of water damage sustained from the building’s completion. The external concrete wall stripped to add insulation aided water-proofing. This restoration technically upgraded the Habitat to suit the energy conservation standards of the 21st Century.

The original timber parquet floor restored with the slot detailing improved the air quality and internal air circulation. According to the architects, this unit will remain open for the public, architects, and students who want to research modular architecture. Though the architects plan to continue the restoration cycle throughout, most of the construction issues of Habitat are solved.

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