The habitat (term that in the Latin language means “he inhabits”) is the place whose physical and environmental characteristics can allow a given species to live, develop, reproduce, ensuring, quality of life, which may decrease or increase according to climatic or demographic changes.
It consists of the set of biotopes in which a given organism has been able to establish its own ecological niche, and is characterized by climate and other physical, chemical, biological and ecological conditions, which determine its extent. Any change in these conditions modifies the present habitat and gives rise to the development of new communities. In a habitat devoid of living organisms (such as those produced as a result of geological phenomena that bring to the earth’s surface new land, or following the destruction of existing habitats, for example by fire) develop, at first, a small number of pioneer species (for example lichens), later replaced by an increasing number of more complex species until reaching a situation of equilibrium (climax). Also the area within which a group of living things can expand.
Choice of optimal habitat: set of behaviors, usually based on responses to specific stimuli, that lead an animal to frequent areas that have the appropriate environmental requirements.
Habitat and urban planning
By extension, in urban planning the term was adopted by the architects of the Modern Movement to designate a coherent complex of structures designed to meet the needs of community and collective life of man. The problem of the qualification of the modern habitat, as a response to new social, economic and technical needs, has been one of the main issues of the contemporary urban debate, especially between the twenties and thirties of the twentieth century, in the West and in the USSR (Ginzburg).
With the development and the overcoming of the problem of workers’ housing, the proposals have taken shape in terms of new residential units, determined by the integration and juxtaposition of housing (housing cells) and their extensions (public facilities and services), as elements of primary organization. Therefore, these units are made up of serial elements (cells-type) and special elements (services), whose system of aggregation and integration takes place according to different types of alignment and configuration.
The problem of the global renewal of the contemporary habitat (typologies, aggregations, hierarchies, etc.) is the basis of Le Corbusier’s twenty years of research. His “Unité de habitation de grandeur conforme” (Unité of Marseille) has been flanked and contrasted (since the end of the 1920s) by other proposals and elaborations, within which the problem ceases to be posed in global terms and is reduced to the theme of the minimum standard of the living cell (the CIAM of Brussels and Frankfurt). Therefore, the further models proposed, based essentially on the polyvalence and flexibility of the serial elements (Habitat ’67 in Montréal by M. Safdie), organized according to mainly functional principles (Alexander and Chermayeff scheme) or consumption (Archigram), should be framed according to this research direction.
From the seventies and eighties, the cultural elaboration of the habitat has to face the problems of pollution, of the use of non-renewable natural resources on the same time scale, of the increase of the world population, looking for solutions that can guarantee to future generations the availability of a habitat able to ensure their survival.