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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Mystery Solved

posted by on June 27 at 13:51 PM

The insect complex is called Habitat 67; its location is Montreal along the Saint-Laurent river; and its architect is Moshe Safdie.
habitat_67.jpg I’ve actually seen this building with my very own eyes, and my eyes said no to it three times. Nothing in the world had the power to make me walk inside of it (I’m a man not an ant). Indeed, if it wasn’t for the raw concrete, zero would be the number of things I admired about the Habitat .

If you want to be a man about concrete, this is what you build:

Moshe Safdie is also the architect of the lousy Vancouver Public Library:
librarysq01.jpg A library as a crumbling Roman colosseum? The idea was dead before it left the head of the architect.

RSS icon Comments


The Vancouver Library rocks.

Posted by elswinger | June 27, 2007 1:58 PM

I don't share your hate for either of these buildings. I actually like them a lot.

Posted by monkey | June 27, 2007 2:01 PM

Seattle's library rocks even harder. actually i've never been to the Vancouver library to say that for sure, but you guys have by far the coolest library i've ever set foot in. I couldn't stop snapping photos.

That apartment complex is the coolest I've ever seen. I'm in love. Thank you, Charles, for calling it to my attention!

Posted by brandon | June 27, 2007 2:02 PM

I like Habitat 67 in a Dr. Seuss kind of way, but the Vancouver's library is pretty terrible.

Posted by Postureduck | June 27, 2007 2:04 PM

Muede could do better if he designed a building.

After all, look at his taste in hats.

Posted by ecce homo | June 27, 2007 2:06 PM

I actually rather like Vancouver's library. *shrug* It helps that there's a pub on the same block. ;)

Posted by Phelix | June 27, 2007 2:07 PM

Oh God, Charles, your taste in architecture is almost as boring as your taste in literature.

Posted by crazycatguy | June 27, 2007 2:07 PM

Please give up as an architecture critic. Your taste clearly sucks.

Posted by The Baron | June 27, 2007 2:09 PM

I used to like the Vancouver Library, and actually lived with a librarian who worked there for a while, back when I was a Vancouverite.

As to Montreal, one of the Essential Bakery front staff is moving there soon, maybe she'll end up living there ...

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 27, 2007 2:18 PM

Habitat 67 rules. The less common walls I have with my neighbors, the better. There's a million things I like about its design.

Besides, it was build for a World Expo, kinda a prototype show-off peice, and not strictly as practical "housing" like what's shown below.

Hmmm.... kinda like the Vancouver library too.

Posted by Dougsf | June 27, 2007 2:18 PM

I was about to write what is said @10, with emphasis on not sharing a ceiling or floor.

Posted by Otter | June 27, 2007 2:23 PM

Habitat 67 is a fantastic piece of architecture, and human needs are exactly what Safdie had in mind when he designed it. Look at it. There are few common walls, and the roofs of your neighbors serve as excellent and large balconies. Your average apartment dweller is lucky to get one wall with sunshine, and some of these are getting four. It was originally designed as public housing, but went condo, and has proven incredibly popular, not just because it looks so unique, but because it's a nice place to live.

Posted by Gitai | June 27, 2007 2:26 PM

the 2nd building looks familiar ... where is that?

Posted by kevin jones | June 27, 2007 2:34 PM

Kazahkstan, probably.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | June 27, 2007 2:37 PM

Charles, how many times a day does someone call you parochial? Hopefully I'm the first.

I believe-- and I could be wrong --but I believe I've seen that second building out the window of a train as I was heading into Paddington Station in London. There's sort of a string of them as you come in from Bristol.

Posted by Judah | June 27, 2007 2:46 PM

Charles, I'm always amazed at how consistently I disagree with you.

Posted by Sean | June 27, 2007 2:49 PM

"I’m a man not an ant"

That comment made me think of "Zoolander:"

"What is this, a center for ANTS!?"

Posted by Sam | June 27, 2007 2:50 PM

Charles: "Whatever" is one word, not two.

It gives me great pleasures to tell you that.

Posted by frederick r | June 27, 2007 2:52 PM

Yes. The giant cement rectangle is brilliant and daring. So are you.

Posted by Mr. Poe | June 27, 2007 2:54 PM

Oh, Charles. Can't you see that Habitat IS the second building, just with the pieces pushed around? Everybody gets a little more air is all. Air is not a bad thing to have more of. Habitat is gorgeous and absolutely, beautifully, functional.

The Vancouver Library is eh, OK, nothing special. As a design it's too precious, but the space inside is nice enough. The thing about it that sucks, as is ALWAYS SO, is the context; on a windy day (and Vancouver has a lot of 'em) trudging up to that place is like crossing the tundra. There's a LOT of worthless empty plaza space and empty blocks out that way. Look at the picture: no neighbors. It's not a part of anything. And the round shape, besides being show-offy in a lame po-mo way, practically demands a lack of integration. It's also the kind of building that looks dated two weeks before it opens. Not a success.

But better than ours, because they have books.

The nicest public library in these parts is Bellevue Regional.

Posted by Fnarf | June 27, 2007 3:00 PM

Bonus points for being the first person in history to use the phrase "be a man about concrete" though. Should be an album title.

Posted by Fnarf | June 27, 2007 3:05 PM

@13 - It's Terry/Lander.

Posted by Condon | June 27, 2007 3:09 PM

Well, now we know who brutalism's last fan is. Also possibly its first and only.

Posted by Doctor Memory | June 27, 2007 3:25 PM

Omigod you really need to read up on postmodernism in architecture (e.g. start w/ Jencks). That's the ism that started slightly *after* modernism, what made the modern old-fashioned. Back in the 1980s this started. It's, like, a whole thing you seem to have missed.

Posted by ebsur | June 27, 2007 3:31 PM

Charles Mudede. Authority on all the boring minutia of Man Law.

Charles you know what would be cool is if you critiqued the contents of homeless people's shopping carts.

Posted by Man Lawyer | June 27, 2007 3:41 PM

I think you mean "what tried to make the modern old-fashioned, but failed miserably, due to its intellectual bankruptcy, tastelessness, and addiction to shitty materials and execution".

Posted by Fnarf | June 27, 2007 3:43 PM

The Unite d'Habitation by Le Courbusier. It's in Marseilles. The reason it looks familiar is that so many, many architects have decided to copy it in the 50+ years since it's completion.

And Le Corbusier was a true "man about concrete."

Check this out.

Posted by Sstarr | June 27, 2007 3:51 PM

Yes, because the very firstest thing you should consider when building a block of apartments is how manly it is.


And by "Yeah", I mean "No. Not that at all."

Posted by Lee Gibson | June 27, 2007 5:01 PM

First time I saw Habitat 67 I was at the Expo itself.

Man, that was fun!

Mind, I was a kid, but I remember being amazed by everything.

Can I have my jetpack now?

Posted by Will in Seattle | June 27, 2007 5:14 PM

I like all those buildings, including the Modern box, but then I like Modern and post.

What I fucking hate is neoclassical and colonial bullshit- and pretty much anything with an overdone facade. The original Palladian stuff in the nineteenth century, great, anything after that, fucking horrible. Give me a pastel lego box with lots of natural light to live in.

Posted by Jay | June 27, 2007 5:14 PM

Charles, you know I adore your obscure philosophical ramblings, but your view of architecture baffles me. Sometimes I completely agree, and sometimes I vehemently disagree.

There is a spectrum of architecture. At the one end is the grand and interesting and beautiful, but serves no function. That is what the Vancouver library looks like (at least in this photo -- I've never been inside): fascinating to look at, but utterly impractical as a repository for books. At the other end of the spectrum is total functionality at the expense of the aesthetic. That is the concrete apartment block: hideous in every way, but cheap to build, long lasting, and you can cram a lot of people into it. Habitat 67 sits nicely in the middle. It is interesting to look at and unique (granted, everyone has different tastes), yet houses people just as efficiently as the ugly concrete monolith.

I would wager that most people would feel a lot more like an ant if forced to live in an ugly concrete monolith than if they lived in Habitat 67.

Posted by SDA in SEA | June 27, 2007 5:48 PM

Don't knock ugly concrete monoliths.

I would much rather be in Habitat 67 than the brick though.

Posted by Jay | June 27, 2007 5:54 PM

Ditto. 67 looks kind of like the hillside neighborhood over a souk. Just have the souk in front of it instead of an empty grassy expanse, though. Vancouver's library is as outdatedly 90s as SAM. BTW Man Lawyer, the plural is 'minutiae'.

Posted by Grant Cogswell | June 27, 2007 6:45 PM

Charles, you really didn't recognize Habitat all by yourself? Somebody had to tip you off? It's one of the most famous and recognizable buildings in 1960s architecture. Well, you're only hell of an authority on the subject. Maybe you'd like it better if it had a pair of really big tits?

Posted by fog | June 27, 2007 7:04 PM

Don't knock the Vancouver Public Library! It is by far more functional and enjoyable a facility than the misguided Seattle Public Library.

Posted by Daniel K | June 27, 2007 8:36 PM

Today's architects suck. There is a reason why you never, ever see a poster of that complex in Montreal: it's very ugly. No symmetry, no form, just a blob.

But it's "different." Blah blah.

It is not beautiful. Modern architects reject the very notion of beauty. Their work is ugly.

For another example check out the addition to Greg's bicylces in Green Lake -- "early construction trailer" it could be called.

Posted by unPC | June 27, 2007 8:39 PM

I was looking at your post offline on RSS, that is, without pictures, and I was already sure you were talking of Habitat 67. Mind you, it's actually a great place to live.
The idea was originally to make a low-cost building technique for habitations that people would actually want to live in (unlike the "manly" concrete building). I think there was a specific concern about this, maybe surging bungallows in the suburbs... Could anyone look into this?The block units would be prebuilt and then assembled together on site.
I don't know if it was as cheap as intended, but it is somewhat luxuous.

Posted by Mokawi | June 27, 2007 9:46 PM

It's like the whole 'what is modern?' process of design. I like Mac for their sleek simplicity, but at the same time, when it comes to cars or buildings, I have to ask myself- why not go back to the classical? It's not nostalgia that makes it so charming, it's pure aesthetic appeal.

That being said, the Seattle library is completely stupid. At least the Vancouver library tries for something. If you want something inspiring, go to Suzzallo.

Posted by stiletto | June 27, 2007 11:05 PM

Oh and for the record, I do agree with you on the Vancouver Library. It's terribly cheesy. The roman comparison is actually too good for this; personally, it reminds me of the Famous Players Coliseums (or Colisea?). It actually bears the name of the Coliseum, and is totally round like the original thing.
Or maybe that is what it reminds me of. For those who haven't had the chance to visit it, the Sony Center and the whole neighborhood (which was built where the Berlin wall stood) feels like a chunk of Kuwait inside Montréal or New York. Or like a sort of expensive Disneyland, if you prefer, which goes for the Vancouver Library just as well, at least on the looks.

Posted by Mokawi | June 27, 2007 11:33 PM

36: Yeah, of course modernity is categorically ugly. Let's burn it with the rest of the decadent Jewish art and bring back the classical form and beauty of the volk!

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