11 Interesting Multidwellings

Architecture To Live In

close-up ivew of skyscraper tower with floors off-center
Jenga Tower at 56 Leonard Street, 2017, by Herzog & de Meuron.

Gary Hershorn/Getty Images (cropped)


Living in a city has always been exciting, and it's gotten more interesting as top-notch architects are designing upward. Take a quick tour of some of the most appealing residential architecture found around the world — and these are just the exteriors!.

Habitat '67, Montreal, Canada

Photo of box-like apartment units, individually and randomly stacked.
Habitat '67, designed by Moshe Safdie for the 1967 International and Universal Exposition in Montreal, Canada,. Photo ©2009 Jason Paris at flickr.com

Habitat '67 began as a thesis for McGill University. Architect Moshe Safdie transformed his organic design and submitted the plan to Expo '67, a World's Fair held in Montreal in 1967. The success of Habitat '67 ignited Safdie's architectural career and established his reputation.

Facts About Habitat:

  • prefabricated units
  • 354 module cubes, stacked like boxes
  • 158 units, ranging from 600 to 1,800 square feet
  • each unit has a roof garden
  • influenced by the 1960s idea of metabolism in architecture

It is said that Habitat's architect, Moshe Safdie, owns a unit in the complex.

To live here, see www.habitat67.com >>

Moshe Safdie in Canada:

Source: Info, Habitat '67, Safdie Architects at www.msafdie.com/#/projects/habitat67 [accessed January 26, 2013]

Hansaviertel, Berlin, Germany, 1957

Photo of 1957 contemporary German residential housing by Alvar Aalto.
Hansaviertel Housing, Berlin, Germany, designed by Alvar Aalto, 1957. Photo ©2008 SEIER+SEIER, CC BY 2.0, flickr.com

Finnish architect Alvar Aalto helped rebuild Hansaviertel. A small locality almost completely destroyed during World War II, Hansaviertel in West Berlin was part of a divided Germany, with competing political systems. East Berlin quickly rebuilt. West Berlin thoughtfully rebuilt.

In 1957, Interbau, an international building exhibition set the agenda for planned housing in West Berlin. Fifty-three architects from all over the world were invited to participate in the rebuilding of Hansaviertel. Today, unlike the quickly constructed residential architecture of East Berlin, the careful works of Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, Oscar Niemeyer and others have not fallen out of style.

Many of these apartments offer short-term rentals. See travel sites such as www.live-like-a-german.com/.

Read More:

Berlin's Hansaviertel at 50: A postwar future gains a new present by Jan Otakar Fischer, The New York Times, September 24, 2007

Olympic Housing, London, United Kingdom, 2012

Photo of ancient Greek Olympic figures cut into stone of a 2012 apartment for the London Olympics.
Athletes Housing in Stratford, London, UK by Niall McLaughlin Architects, completed April 2011. Photo by Olivia Harris ©2012 Getty Images, WPA Pool/Getty Images

A gathering of Olympians provides immediate opportunities for architects to design contemporary residential housing. London 2012 was no exception. Swiss-born Niall McLaughlin and his London architectural firm chose to connect an athlete's 21st-century housing experience with images of ancient Greek athletes. Using digitized images from the Elgin Marbles at the British Museum, the McLaughlin team electronically drilled panels for the facade of this stone building.

"The façade of our housing is made from relief castings, based on an ancient frieze, made from reconstituted stone, showing parades of athletes assembled for a festival," says McLaughlin's corporate website. "We put a strong emphasis on the inventive use of building materials, the qualities of light and the relationship between the building and its surroundings."

The stone panels do create an inspirational and festive environment. After the month-long games, however, housing reverts to the general public. One wonders what future tenants might think of these ancient Greeks reveling on their walls.

Source: Website of Niall McLaughlin Architects [accessed July 6, 2012]

Albion Riverside, London, United Kingdom, 1998 - 2003

Photo of an asymmetrical crescent, multi-floored building facing a river.
Albion Riverside, on the River Thames in London, was designed by Norman Foster / Foster and Partners, 1998 - 2003. Photo ©2007 Herry Lawford at flickr.com

Like many other residential housing complexes, Albion Riverside is a mixed-use development. Designed by Sir Norman Foster and Foster and Partners between 1998 and 2003, the building remains a vital part of the Battersea community.

Facts About Albion Riverside:

  • located on the south bank of the Thames River in London, England
  • 11 stories at its highest point
  • asymmetrical open crescent with two facades—glass and balconies along the riverside exposure and a curved, metalic, windowed shell opposite
  • 26 apartments on a typical floor
  • 183 apartments total

To live here, see www.albionriverside.com/ >>

Other Buildings by Sir Norman Foster >>

Additional photos on the Foster + Partners website >>

Aqua Tower, Chicago, Illinois, 2010

Architect Jeanne Gang's The Aqua at Lakeshore East Condominiums, in Chicago, Illinois in 2013
Architect Jeanne Gang's The Aqua at Lakeshore East Condominiums, in Chicago, Illinois in 2013. Photo By Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Studio Gang Architects' Aqua Tower may have been architect's Jeanne Gang's breakthrough building. After its successful 2010 opening, in 2011 Gang became the first architect in over a decade to win a MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Award.

Facts About Aqua Tower:

  • 82 stories
  • 1.9 million square feet
  • hotel in first 20 floors; apartments and condominiums in top 60 floors
  • green roof
  • irregularly placed terraces bring the outside in, provide weather shielding for adjoining tenants, and shape the building's look
  • received the 2010 Honor Award, Distinguished Building, AIA Chicago
  • named Skyscraper of the Year, Emporis, in 2009

Form Follows the Function:

Studio Gang describes Aqua's look:

"Its outdoor terraces—which differ in shape from floor to floor based on criteria such as views, solar shading and dwelling size/type—create a strong connection to the outdoors and the city, as well as form the tower's distinctive undulating appearance."

LEED Certification:

Chicago blogger Blair Kamin reports in Cityscapes (February 15, 2011) that the Aqua Tower's developer, Magellan Development LLC, is seeking certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Kamin notes that the developer of Gehry's NYC building—New York By Gehry—is not.

To live here, see www.lifeataqua.com >>

The Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel Chicago occupies the lower floors.

New York By Gehry, 2011

Public School 397 beneath New York by Gehry in 2011, lower Manahattan in New York City
Public School 397 beneath New York by Gehry in 2011, lower Manahattan in New York City. Photo by Jon Shireman/The Image Bank/Getty Images (cropped)

The "tallest residential tower in the Western Hemisphere" was known as "Beekman Tower" when it was being built. Then it was simply known by its address: 8 Spruce Street. Since 2011, the building has been known by its marketing name, New York By Gehry. Living in a Frank Gehry building is a dream come true for some people. Developers often take advantage of an architect's star power.

Facts About 8 Spruce Street:

  • 870 feet tall, 76 stories
  • 903 units
  • ammenities include an indoor swimming pool, gym, library, media center, and areas designed for more youthful tenants (children)
  • "over 200 unique floor plans"
  • irregularly placed bay windows on each floor create a wave-like exterior, but not on every side of the building
  • stainless steel skin
  • the building's base is of traditional brick construction to visually fit with neighboring structures; the first five floors were built to house Public School 397 (Spruce Street School)
  • named Skyscraper of the Year, Emporis, in 2011

Light and Vision:

Human beings don't see without light. Gehry plays with this biological idiosyncrasy. The architect has created a multi-surfaced, highly reflective (stainless steel) skyscraper that, to the observer, transforms its appearance as the surrounding light changes. From day to night and from cloudy day to full sunlight, every hour creates a new view of "New York by Gehry."

Views from Inside:

Other Buildings by Frank Gehry >>

To live here, see www.newyorkbygehry.com >>

Learn More:

BoKlok Apartment Buildings, 2005

Photo of L-shaped, grey apartment complex, unadorned.
Norwegian Apartment Building, BoKlok. Press / Media photo of Norwegian Apartment Building ©BoKlok

There's nothing like IKEA® for designing a really great bookcase. But a whole house? Seems that the Swedish furniture giant has constructed thousands of trendy modular houses all across Scandinavia since 1996. The development of 36 flats in St. James Village, Gateshead, United Kingdom (UK) is completely sold out.

The houses are called BoKlok (pronounced "Boo Clook") but the name doesn't come from their boxy appearance. Roughly translated from Swedish, BoKlok means smart living. Boklok houses are simple, compact, space efficient, and affordable - sort of like an Ikea bookcase.

The Process:

"The multi family buildings are factory-built in modules. The modules are transported by lorry to the building site, where we can then erect a building containing six apartments in less than a day."

BoKlok is a partnership between IKEA and Skanska and does not sell housing in the United States. However, U.S. companies such as IdeaBox provide IKEA-inspired modular homes.

Learn More:

Source: "The BokLok Story," Fact Sheet, May 2012 (PDF) accessed July 8, 2012

The Shard, London, United Kingdom, 2012

The Shard skyscraper in London, Renzo Piano, sharp, crystal pyramid, angled glass fadade, 2012
The Shard in London, designed by Renzo Piano, 2012. Photo by Cultura Travel/Richard Seymour/The Image Bank Collection/Getty Images

When it opened in early 2013, the Shard glass skyscraper was considered the tallest building in western Europe. Also known as Shard London Bridge and London Bridge Tower, the Renzo Piano design was part of the redevelopment of the London Bridge area near London's City Hall along the River Thames.

Facts About the Shard:

  • Location: Southwark, London; the 1975 Southwark Towers, a 24-story office building, was torn down to make room for the Shard
  • Architectural Height: 1,004 feet
  • 73 floors
  • 600,000 square feet
  • Multi-Use: offices first 28 floors; restaurants on floors 31-33; hotel on floors 34-52; residential apartments on floors 53-65; observation areas on top floors
  • Designed with ventilation and heating systems to use 30% less energy overall than comparable high-rises
  • Concrete core containing stairs and elevators; steel frame; glass curtain wall
  • Structural plans for the Shard were redesigned after the 9/11 terrorist attacks destroyed the Twin Towers in New York City

More About The Shard and Renzo Piano >>

Sources: The Shard website at the-shard.com [accessed July 7, 2012]; EMPORIS database [accessed September 12, 2014]

Cayan Tower, Dubai, UAE, 2013

The 73 floors of the Dubai Cayan Tower is twisted 90 degrees from bottom to top
The Cayan Tower stands alone architecturally in the Marina District of Dubai. Photo by Amanda Hall/Robert Harding World Imagery Collection/Getty Images

Dubai has many places to live. Some of the tallest residential skyscrapers in the world are located in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), but one stands out on the Dubai Marina landscape. The Cayan Group, a leader in real estate investment and development, has added an organically-inspired waterfront tower to Dubai's architecture collection.

Facts About Cayan Tower:

  • Location: Marina District, Dubai, UAE
  • Opened: 2013
  • Architect and Engineer: George Efstathiou, FAIA, RIBA, and William F. Baker, PE, SE, FASCE, FIStructE, of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM)
  • Main Contractor: Arabtec Construction, L.L.C.
  • Construction Materials: Concrete; titanium curtain wall; Interiors finished in marble and wood
  • Height: 307 meters; 1,007 feet
  • 73 floors; 80 stories
  • Also known as Infinity Tower
  • Use: Studio, 1,2,3 and 4 bedroom apartments, duplexes, penthouses

The Cayan's 90 degree twist from bottom to top is accomplished by rotating each floor 1.2 degrees, giving every apartment a room with a view. This shape is also said to "confuse the wind," which reduces Dubai wind forces on the skyscraper.

The SOM design imitates the Turning Torso in Sweden, a much smaller (623 feet) aluminum-clad residential tower completed in 2005 by architect/engineer Santiago Calatrava.

This twisty architecture, reminiscent of the turning double helix design of our own DNA, has been called neo-organic for its similarity to designs found in nature. Biomimicry and biomorphism are other terms used for this biology-based design. Calatrava's Milwaukee Art Museum and his design for the World Trade Center Transportation Hub have been called zoomorphic for their bird-like qualities. Others have called architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) the source of all things organic. Whatever name architectural historians will give to it, the twisted, turning skyscraper has arrived.

Sources: Emporis; Cayan Tower website at http://www.cayan.net/cayan-tower.html; "SOM’s Cayan (formerly Infinity) Tower opens," SOM website at https://www.som.com/news/som-s-cayan-formerly-infinity-tower-opens [accessed October 30, 2013]

Hadid Residences, Milan, Italy, 2013

Curvy apartment building designed by Zaha Hadid in Milan, Italy
Hadid Residences for CityLife Milano, Italy. Photo by photolight69/Moment Collection/Getty Images (cropped)

Add one more building to the Zaha Hadid Architecture Portfolio. Together, Iraqi born Zaha Hadid, Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, and Polish-born Daniel Libeskind have developed a master plan of mixed use buildings and open spaces for the city of Milan, Italy. Private residences are part of the business-commercial-green space urban redevelopment mix found in the CityLife Milano project.

Facts About the Residences at Via Senofonte:

  • Architectural Design: Priztker Laureate Dame Zaha Hadid
  • Number of buildings: 7
  • Size: 38,000 square meters (gross); 230 units; underground parking garage
  • Height: Variable, from 5 to 13 stories
  • Architect's Description: "The roof outline raises continuously from building to building, Starting from 5-storey C2 building facing Piazza Giulio Cesare it reaches its maximum height at building C6 13th floor, thus ideally setting a unified and unique skyline....The façade design involves continuity and fluidity: the volumetric envelope of the buildings is defined by a curvilinear movement of balconies and terraces, opening up into a rich variety of private spaces, both interior and exterior, echoing the landscape below."
  • Construction Materials: Façade panels of fiber concrete and natural wood
  • Sustainability: Certified Class A under Regione Lombardia law

The Hadid Residences, which surround a courtyard, lie within large green spaces leading to another residential complex, Via Spinola, designed by Daniel Libeskind.

To live in CityLife, request more information at www.city-life.it/en/chi-siamo/request-info/

Sources: CityLife press release; CityLife Construction Timetable; Architect's Description, City Life Milano Residential Complex Project Description  [accessed October 15, 2014]

Hundertwasser-Haus in Vienna, Austria

Hundertwasserhaus, Vienna, Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser and Joseph Krawina
Hundertwasser House in Vienna, Austria. Photo by Maria Wachala/Moment Collection/Getty Image (cropped)

A startling building with intense colors and undulating walls, Hundertwasser-Haus has 52 apartments, 19 terraces, and 250 trees and bushes growing on rooftops and even inside rooms. The outrageous design of the apartment house expresses the ideas of its creator, Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000).

Already successful as a painter, Hundertwasser believed that people should be free to embellish their buildings. He rebelled against traditions established by Austrian architect Adolf Loos, famous for saying ornament is evil. Hundertwasser wrote passionate essays about architecture and began designing colorful, organic buildings that defied rules of order and logic.

Hundertwasser House has onion towers like St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow and a grass roof as contemporary as the California Academy of Sciences.

About Hundertwasser Haus:

Location: Kegelgasse 36-38, Vienna, Austria
Date Completed: 1985
Height: 103 feet (31.45 meters)
Floors: 9
Website: www.hundertwasser-haus.info/en/ - A house in harmony with nature

Architect Josef Krawina (b. 1928) used Hundertwasser's ideas to draft plans for the Hundertwasser apartment building. But Hundertwasser rejected the models that Krawina presented. They were, in Hundertwasser's opinion, too linear and orderly. After much debate, Krawina left the project.

Hundertwasser-Haus was completed with architect Peter Pelikan. However, Josef Krawina is legally considered the co-creator of Hundertwasser-Haus.

The Hundertwasser-Krawina House - 20th Century Legal Design:

Shortly after Hundertwasser died, Krawina claimed co-authorship and took legal action against the property's management company. The property has become one of the top tourist destinations in all Vienna, and Krawina wanted recognition. The museum souvenir shop claimed that when Krawina walked away from the project, he walked away from all creative rights. The Austrian Supreme Court found otherwise.

The International Literary and Artistic Association (ALAI), a creative rights organization founded in 1878 by Victor Hugo, reports this outcome:

Supreme Court 11 March 2010 – Hundertwasser-Krawina-Haus

  • The so-called "Hundertwasser-Haus" in Vienna was created jointly by the architect Josef Krawina (structure) and the painter Friedensreich Hundertwasser (decorative fassade). Both of them are, therefore, deemed to be co-authors.
  • Either of the co-authors may sue for copyright infringement independently, lawsuits against the other co-author included.
  • Moral rights are inalienable – they may, however, be transferred to a third party on a trust basis.
  • There is no forfeiture of authors' rights on account of non-intervention against infringements for a long period of time....

This lawsuit gets to the spiritual and technical nature of the profession, but does the Austrian Supreme Court answer the questions what is architecture and what is an architect?

Learn More:

Sources: Hundertwasser Haus, EMPORIS; ALAI Executive Committee Paris February 19, 2011, Recent Development in Austria by Michel Walter (PDF) at alai.org [accessed July 28, 2015]

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Craven, Jackie. "11 Interesting Multidwellings." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, thoughtco.com/residential-housing-projects-and-habitat-67-177926. Craven, Jackie. (2021, February 16). 11 Interesting Multidwellings. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/residential-housing-projects-and-habitat-67-177926 Craven, Jackie. "11 Interesting Multidwellings." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/residential-housing-projects-and-habitat-67-177926 (accessed June 6, 2023).