What Montreal's Iconic Habitat 67 Was Supposed To Look Like (PHOTOS)
You can tour every nook and cranny of the original design!
There you are, standing in Montreal's Old Port, gazing at the geometric cascade that is Habitat 67, and the thought pops into your head that it seems somewhat incomplete. Well, you're on to something.
The iconic structure is a monument to unrealized aspirations — a tantalizing glimpse of what might have been. Now, thanks to digital technology, you can virtually step into a world where Habitat 67 has finally reached its full potential.
The Montreal skyline behind the Hillside Sample Project at dusk.Courtesy of Unreal Engine
Unreal Engine, the powerhouse behind many of your favourite video games, including the wildly popular Fortnite, has sparked new life into Moshe Safdie's unfinished masterpiece. With the Hillside Sample Project, you can now immerse yourself in the architect's utopian dream for Montreal's skyline. It's Habitat 67 as you've never seen it before.
When Safdie, then a McGill University student, first drew up the plan for his innovative structure of cascading cubes, he planned a living space that merged the comfort of suburban homes with the communal spirit of city apartments. The concept wowed global audiences at Montreal's Expo 67, presenting a hopeful glimpse of the future.
The living areas are built on top of a park with waterways.Courtesy of Unreal Engine
The Habitat 67 we know today, housing 158 residences, falls short of Safdie's design of a home for 1,200 families.
His ambitious plan to create a sprawling, vertical community where nature blended seamlessly with urban living was scaled back due to financial constraints — standing at less than half the originally planned height.
A glimpse into a bedroom from a vine-covered balcony on the south side of the structure.Courtesy of Unreal Engine
Now, you can explore the full extent of Habitat 67 and Hillside through your browser via Google Streaming. The virtual tour gives insight into Safdie's grand vision, along with the complexity and imagination behind one of Montreal's best-known landmarks.
As you navigate the virtual rendition of the iconic structure, you can explore at your own pace or opt for a tour guided by Safdie himself. Links conveniently placed around the map offer short bursts of illuminating commentary.
"The quality of light and space would be extraordinary... like in a great Cathedral," Safdie says of the towering A-frames as viewers gape up at the beams overhead.
The attention to detail, from the texture of the concrete to the sound of birds, makes touring the site feel incredibly realistic. You can bask in the summer sun or stroll under fall foliage by altering the time of day or season at your whim, adding an extra layer of immersion to your virtual exploration.
Montreal's Farine Five Roses sign visible between the Hillside structure.Courtesy of Unreal Engine
As you navigate the simulation, you can see apartments bathed in golden light, communal spaces filled with trees, grass and shrubs, alongside fountains, pools, and fabricated waterways running through the structure. It gives you the feeling of living in a park.
"People prefer houses, that's why they're in the suburbs. Therefore, if we could reinvent the apartment building so that it gives you the quality of life of a house, garden, privacy and access through an open street, people will be more willing to live in cities," Safdie explains during another part of the tour.
A view of Montreal's Old Port from a Habitat 67 balcony.Courtesy of Unreal Engine
Every unit in Hillside has a terrace designed to maximize sun exposure. The immersive tour, developed in collaboration with Safdie Architects and Neoscape, highlights the creative potential of combining architectural vision with digital technology.
It may make you wish that Safdie's dream had been fully realized. Given Montreal's current housing crisis, it might be time to take another, more serious look at his initial vision. The answer to our urban living challenges might just lie in the past, locked away in the unfulfilled promise of Habitat 67.
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