By now an architectural classic, Safdie’s Habitat ’67 represents a highly influential vision for a community-oriented, nature-infused urban housing model, and at the same time, a critical example of the possibilities of prefabrication. Fifty years after the design of Habitat ’67, Safdie is still exploring this vision of urban living, further developing the concept with projects such as Altair Residences, Qorner Tower and Habitat Qinhuangdao. Rooted in the architect’s motto - “for everyone a garden”, the new projects capitalise on outdoor terraces, natural light and ventilation, as well as communal spaces.
“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 Safdie’s Design Partner Jaron Lubin. He goes on to say that “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”. Stepped volumes, landscaped terraces and public gardens are the common denominators of Habitat’s newest iterations. The office’s recent projects in Asia and Latin America further investigate Safdie’s 1967 thesis for a different urban living model while also providing a contextual response to local culture, climate and site.
Set for completion in September this year, the design of Altair Residencies in Colombo, Sri Lanka, reflects the tropical climate through cross ventilation and the diffusion of sunlight. The two towers leaning against each other comprise 400 units, with column-free open-plan interiors and garden terraces or balconies. Communal outdoor spaces can be found at different levels throughout the building, while the ground level features retail spaces.
A compact tower version of the Habitat is Qorner Tower, where the pixelated silhouette gives room to double-height landscaped terraces, and operable glass walls create a fluid indoor-outdoor living experience. Located in Quito, Ecuador, this project also uses cross-ventilation and features open-plan units, a structural achievement given the seismic conditions of the city. This time, communal spaces can be found on the roof featuring a tree-lines infinity swimming pool, a garden and a gathering space. Topping out in September, the project is set for completion in 2022.
In July this year, construction debuted for the newest instalment of Habitat 67, Phase II of Habitat Qinhuangdao, a series of interconnected, stepped residential blocks along the Bohai Sea shoreline. The project of increased scale and density features an extensive landscape at ground level and outdoor space for each unit. “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,” says Sean Sensor, Partner-in-Charge of the project for Safdie Architects, adding that “it takes care to resolve, but the result is the amazing feeling of living in the sky.”
Over the past year, there has been a rediscovery of the interdependence between nature and society. 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. -Moshe Safdie
Its focus on n outdoor spaces and a complex understanding of urban dwelling have rendered Habitat 67 even more relevant amidst the pandemic. Its philosophy and framework have been recently detailed in a new short film, featuring Moshe Safdie explaining his ideas, as well as the residents of 1967 Habitat revealing their experience of the building.