Conçu au milieu des années 1960 par l'architecte Moshe Safdie, il était supervisé par Sandy van Ginkel alors qu'il étudiait à l'Université McGill1, Habitat 67 s'appuie sur les idées développées dans sa thèse intitulée A Three-Dimensional Modular Building System. Safdie s'intéressait à l'architecture urbaine à haute densité, et comptait réaliser un ensemble à prix réduit grâce à l'emploi d'éléments préfabriqués.Habitat 67 cherchait à cumuler les avantages de la maison individuelle privée et d'un immeuble d'appartements. Il fut bâti sur le principe de blocs modulaires imbriquables. Une usine fut construite à proximité afin de produire les 354 modules en béton préfabriqué mesurant 11,7 m × 5,3 m × 3 m, qui furent ensuite mis en place à l'aide d'une grue.
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highly recognized" at the institution, though Safdie cites its failure to win the Pilkington Prize, an award for the best thesis at Canadian schools of architecture, as early evidence of its controversial nature. After leaving to work with Louis Kahn in Philadelphia, Safdie was approached by Sandy van Ginkel, his former thesis advisor, to develop the master plan for Expo 67, the world's fair that was set to take place in Montreal during 1967. Safdie decided to propose his thesis as one of the pavilions and began developing his plan. After the plans were approved in Ottawa by Mitchell Sharp, the federal cabinet minister responsible for the exhibition, and Lester B. Pearson, Safdie was given the blessing of the Expo 67 Director of Installations, Edward Churchill, to leave the planning committee in order to work on the building project as an independent architect. Safdie was awarded the project in spite of his relative youth and inexperience, an opportunity he later described as "a fairy tale, an amazing fairy tale"The development was financed by the federal government, but is now owned by its tenants, who formed a limited partnership that purchased the building from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation in 1985. Safdie still owns a penthouse apartment in the building.
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