Safdie Architects spent two years refurbishing the property in the 1960s concrete housing development – a famed example of brutalist architecture – to coincide with the building’s 50th anniversary celebrations last year.
Known as Moshe Safdie’s Unit, the updated two-storey property is located on the 10th floor and occupies several of the 354 stacked prefabricated concrete “boxes” that make up the building.
Among the 158 homes in the complex, the residence was intended as a home for the Israeli-Canadian architect but has been empty for years, which led to damage and disrepair.
The firm’s renovation aimed to resolve these issues, in keeping with the original aesthetic at the time of completion, so that it can be used for scholarly research or public tours.
Additional upgrades bring the apartment in line with contemporary standards of sustainability and energy conservation, and protect it against weathering, although these features are intended to remain hidden.
Repairs were the made to the water-damaged concrete exterior of the residence’s blocky form. Walls were stripped back to allow for new layers of insulation and waterproofing, which will allow the structure to better withstand Canada’s cold and harsh winters.
Inside, restored wooden flooring runs throughout, with slender openings between boards to reduce the chance of the warping. Other woodwork in the property includes the doors and a rail that wraps around the staircase – all complemented by the bright white-painted walls.
Safdie Architects has fitted energy-efficient windows inside to match the existing large openings, which the firm’s founder designed to offer views of the river and Montreal.
The kitchen cabinets and white bathroom mouldings are also returned to their original condition. In the kitchen, new appliances are hidden within the cabinetry.
Safdie’s unit is punctuated by three terraces, including a pair that branch off from the main living area on the lower floor, and a third that slots between the bedroom volumes on the level above. Each is accessed by sliding glass doors that retract into the walls, and is covered in slatted wooden decking.
Last year marked 50 years since Habitat 67 was presented by Safdie at the 1967 World Expo in Montreal. The project, which kickstarted the architect’s career, is now considered a key example of brutalist architecture – the controversial 20th-century style that has since come back into favour.
Safdie Architects is also working on an ongoing comprehensive restoration of the Habitat 67 exterior for its anniversary, while photographer James Brittain celebrated the occasion with images that offer a glimpse of day-to-day life inside the building.
A number of the inhabited residences have also recently undergone renovations. These include Canadian design studio EMarchitecture’s redesign of a two-storey home, and a transformation led by Rainville Sangaré that includes showers with colour-changing screens.
Photography is by Marc Cramer and Thomas Miau.
Project team: Sean Scensor, Matt Longo, Reihaneh Ramezany,
Collaborators: Ghislain Bélanger, local architect
Contractor: Fairmont Construction