The bright and green designs of the Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie travel around the world

More than 50 years after Habitat 67 was built, its principles are being revived around the world

Quito Tower (courtesy of Safdie Architects)

Quito Tower (courtesy of Safdie Architects)

The Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie’s career philosophy “For Every A Garden” supports his conviction that green space, natural light and fresh air are fundamental human rights. Habitat, the modular housing complex he designed for the Montreal Expo ’67, was the public debut of the concept. Unlike the urban community seen in Canada, Habitat quickly secured its place in the Montreal landscape; A war of cubes, glass and gardens on the St. Lawrence River.

Safdie became one of the most prolific and successful architects of the 20th century, bringing his perspective to homes, businesses and museums around the world.

Habitat 67 (courtesy of Safdie Architects)

Habitat 67 (courtesy of Safdie Architects)

In 2010, Habitat Ideals launched a year-long study that led to the project’s global expansion. High-density residential complexes were planned for city centers around the world – the third Habitat-inspired building is expected to be completed this year. Each location showcased the differences in environmental, cultural and even building standards that influenced design and construction, while maintaining Safdie’s ideal of ‘For Every A Garden’.

“We have to integrate architecture with nature. It’s a long-term message, “said Safdie in his short film” Habitat in Nature, “which is designed to explore the principles of his philosophy and celebrate Phase 2 of the Habitats Project in China. And habitat is, in a sense, the seed of DNA that needs to evolve.

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Quito Tower (courtesy of Safdie Architects)

Quito Tower (courtesy of Safdie Architects)

Qorner Tower

Quito, Ecuador

Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is surrounded by dormant volcanoes and the Andes. Overlooking the 165.5-acre lush La Carolina Park, the Qorner Tower makes the most of its relatively small footprint. Opened this year, it features wavy stepped terraces that provide sun and shade, creating a “mountainside” effect to the garden. Some rooms have sliding glass walls to create a smooth interior and exterior, while floor-to-ceiling windows make you feel like you’re living in the sky.

Altair residences

Colombo, Sri Lanka

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The lively city of Colombo is known for its beautiful beaches on the Indian Ocean. Opened in September 2021, this 400-apartment complex includes two interconnected buildings with familiar terraced terraces and solariums. At 240 meters high, it is the tallest building in the country and the city’s first skyscraper. The “heavenly garden” on the 63rd floor offers residents a gathering room and views of Colombo, Lake Beira (downtown) and the ocean. Commercial space, a beach boardwalk and a public green area complement the complex.

Qinhuangdao (courtesy of Safdie Architects)

Qinhuangdao habitat

Qinhuangdao, China

Qinhuangdao, a city of about three million people on the northeast coast of China, is home to the first iteration of the habitat extension; Phase 1 was completed in 2017. It was here that Safdie’s philosophy of “Everyone’s View of the Sea” developed. The statute, which states that each unit must have three hours of sunlight per day throughout the year, was a challenge at first, Safdie explained in Habitat in Nature – no unit can be completely north. The problem was solved with the graduation of apartments and terraces and the angling of buildings.

Sixteen-storey buildings with about 1,000 inhabitants are connected to utilities via roof garden bridges. Lush private terraces and public green spaces spill over with striking ivory and sandstone. The large rectangular gaps allow the rest of the city to enjoy the sea views.

Qinhuangdao (courtesy of Safdie Architects)

Phase 2, which is due to be completed by 2024, will include two 30-storey buildings that will double to 2,000. “It’s been a pleasure to see how much people enjoy using the outdoors,” says Sean Scensor, a partner at Boston’s Safdie Architects. Phase 2 will include more gardens, both private and community, and landscaped social spaces on dramatic bridges.


This article will be published in the January 2022 issue Maclean’s magazine entitled “Let there be light and so much more.” Subscribe to the monthly print magazine here.

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