Habitat ‘67 Apartment on the Market

By Robert J. Galbraith for the Gazette

There are a handful of easily recognizable landmarks in the City of Montreal that reflect the true face of this great city. Perhaps the most recognized would be the cross on top of Mount Royal and St Joseph’s Oratory. But a close third would have to be the Habitat ‘67 complex.

Built for Expo 67 by Montreal architect Moshe Safdie, Habitat is made up of 354 concrete modules of identical size called boxes, or units, each measuring 670 sq ft. Together, these make up approximately 150 apartments, mostly of 2-3 unit apartments.

The entire development is divided into three pyramid-like groupings and like paper clips to a magnet, anyone who glimpses Habitat for the first time, cannot draw their eye away without giving it a second or third look over. To most connoisseurs of dwelling construction and design, it is a true architectural masterpiece that is well-renown throughout the world.

Now, a rare 5-unit apartment at Habitat has been put up for sale by Sotheby’s International Realty Quebec, for $1,549,000. The 3648 sq ft, 3-storey dwelling has 3 bedrooms, 2 ½ bathrooms and phenomenal views of the city and the river.

Ideal for a couple or family, apartment #624 at 2600 Av. Pierre-Dupuy is a real stunner of contemporary living, even though the Habitat is now 45-years-old. The apartment was originally made-up of 3 units, but the owners (who wish to remain anonymous) purchased and incorporated two other above cubes in 1987. In 2000-2001, the apartment underwent a major interior renovation.

Amongst other changes, that renovation included the conversion of two of three outdoor terraces into glassed-in solariums, with radiant heated floors, and new windows for the residence. The second level solarium is now a dinette and lounging area, the third level one is an office. Both have expansive panoramic views of the city skyline and catch a great amount of sunlight.

“One of my favourite things I will miss about living here is when there is a massive snow or lightning storm over the city and river,” confessed the owner. “To see nature like that is something to behold, from the comfort of your home.”

Residents are not allowed to transform the outdoor terraces or perform any other form of exterior modification if it impedes another apartment’s line of view or the overall form of the complex.

From an outside perspective, one who hasn’t visited the complex may come to the conclusion that the interior must resemble a bunch of square building blocks. But this is not the case. On the contrary, you really don’t get any feeling of an assemblage of blocks at all when you enter the residence. There is a definite continuous flow of openness and comfort as you might find in your typical home, though living at Habitat is not typical, due to its esteem and location.

You gain access to the complex by the rear or south side of the compound where an elevator services the floors. The apartments are interlinked by a series of Plexiglas covered ramp ways, which protect the resident and visitor from the cutting winds of the Montreal winter or downpours.

Upon entering apartment #624, you enter the foyer where warm wood tones, colourful carpets, fine artwork and copious amounts of natural light greet you. This is the entrance to the main floor or second level where the living room, dining room, kitchen and its adjacent solarium/dinette are located.

The attractive and open kitchen is very sheik with its high end modern appliances, warm wood cabinetry, granite countertops, hardwood flooring and a very versatile 7 x 4’9” island.

Also from the foyer, a second staircase leads down to the first level with its two guest rooms and fiberglass molded full bathroom. This washroom, in a way, resembles a washroom you might expect to find on an airplane or the set of Star Trek, because of its curved, white molding and design. But you will not feel crammed into any tight confines here as it is much larger. It also has a unique feature that the lighting is controlled by two push buttons, one black, and one white.

“We mainly live on the middle and top floor levels,” explained the owners. A beautiful wood and Plexiglas staircase leads up to the third level and its expansive library, family den, solarium-enclosed office and master bedroom and a his/hers ensuite, including separate walk-in closets. The upper floor master suite gives access to the open exterior terrace. (This stairway was built when the owners purchased the two upper level units).

Habitat ’67 was designed to be a ‘city within a city.’ But the complex never really worked out to become that largely self-sufficient, Shangri-La style of existence that Safdie envisioned. The number of cubes was supposed to be at least double or triple the present number, and there was envisioned a school on the location; true socialism at its best. But as in most capitalist-run societies, the ‘Hippie Commune Syndrome’ was just that, a syndrome lost in wishful thinking and pushed aside by the realities of the present.

However, what has been pressed in cement and architectural visionary progressiveness, is a structural landmark that takes it place alongside the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building, the Sydney Opera House. Habitat ‘67 is so well known throughout the world and to that we must thank the genius of fellow Montrealer and the designer of our portal to the future, our very own ‘Back to the Future’ nemesis, Mr. Moshe Safdie!

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