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This is what it was like to live in the condo of the future

The building is still a residential community today, and if you have a spare half a million, you could make your home in one of Habitat 67’s grey Tetris cubes, but what was it like to be one of the original residents of this experiment in architecture, one of the few lucky Expo 67 delegates who scored a suite in this condo of tomorrow?

Expo 67 kicked off 49 years ago today, so we're visiting one of its most enduring landmarks, Habitat 67

Imagine a Canada where all the condos looked like Habitat 67. The building was designed to be a vision for the future of urban living.

It's a landmark and a Canadian icon. It's a movie star, appearing in films including Blades of Glory, and it's a muse to musicians including Stars and Leonard Cohen, who've featured its 354 concrete cubes in their album art and music videos.
 


 

There's nothing quite like Habitat 67 in Montreal, the apartment complex that looms along the St. Lawrence River like your little brother's Lego collection come to life. Designed by Israelian/Canadian architect Moshe Safdie, the project was meant to completely change how people designed apartment buildings. It was vision for the future — a housing complex that would combine the Canadian dream of suburbia's sprawl of private backyards with the reality of dense urban living — and it was built for Montreal's Expo 67, the world's fair which, incidentally, opened 49 years ago today.

Watch archival raw footage of the complex's pre-fab units being made:


The building is still a residential community today, and if you have a spare half a million, you could make your home in one of Habitat 67's grey Tetris cubes, but what was it like to be one of the original residents of this experiment in architecture, one of the few lucky Expo 67 delegates who scored a suite in this condo of tomorrow?  

One couple shared their experience with CBC Radio back in 1967. "I think just about everybody is fascinated by the structure, the architecture involved," said Robin Randall, an official with the Ontario government who along with his wife was one of Habitat 67's first guests. "People have suggested some pop art on the outside might be a way of camouflaging the greyness of the entire structure," he says, sharing his thoughts on the building's Brutalist design.

Listen to their story, sort of the CBC Radio version of an old-timey Yelp review:

For more throwbacks like this one, visit the CBC Digital Archives.

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