Yona Friedman is a Hungarian-French architect and theorist whose utopian projects deal with issues of urban planning, infrastructure and the empowerment of the user. In 1958 Friedman published his manifesto, Architecture Mobile, for a new type of citizen free from the strictures of work through the growing automation of production. Friedman envisioned that the increase in leisure time would fundamentally change society and would demand a new architecture. This architecture was developed in his project Ville Spatiale (1958-1962), consisting of temporary, lightweight structures raised above the ground which could span across existing cities, countryside, bodies of water, creating a continuous landscape that could be appropriated and inhabited by the user.
Friedman's Ville Spatiale has similarities with Constant's situationist take on the utopian city, New Babylon (1956-1969). Both are designed for the anticipated abolition of work, formally both schemes are raised above the ground on stilts, creating a network capable of spanning the globe. They also employ a similar aesthetic, one very different from the pop sensibility of Archigram; their use of collage, subdued colours and models create an atmosphere that is less exuberantly optimistic but perhaps more real. But it was Friedman's emphasis on participation that set him apart from his contemporaries, including Constant whose New Babylon had a slightly authoritarian character. In Friedman's work spatial agency occurs in the valorisation of the user above the architect and the master builder, seen in his later work (from the mid 1970s to the late 1980s) where he developed a series of self-building manuals for unskilled labourers in India, and various countries in Africa and South America. Working with UNESCO and the UN, Friedman developed a language of pictograms that could communicate a system of building using local materials and convey information on dealing with issues ranging from water management and infrastructure to food policy.
Friedman's ideas frequently went beyond architecture and planning encompassing contemporary art, sociology, economics and information systems, but his work is tied together with the principle of individual freedom that he first put forward in his 1958 manifesto and with his emphasis on unpredictability, play, and the empowerment of the non-specialist and the user.
Tim Abrahams and Yona Friedman, 'Interview: Yona Friedman', Blueprint Magazine, 2009, http://www.blueprintmagazine.co.uk/index.php/everything-else/interview-yona-friedman/ [accessed 8 February 2010].
Yona Friedman, 'The Future: Mobile Architecture', Architectural Design, 30 (1960), 356.
---, Toward a Scientific Architecture (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1975).
---, Utopies Réalisables (Paris: Union Générale d'éditions, 1976).
Yona Friedman and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Yona Friedman (Köln: König, 2007).
---, 'Interview with Yona Friedman', Atlántica de Las Artes, 2001, http://www.caam.net/caamiaaa/cgi-bin/articulo.asp?idArticulo=582&idioma=EN [accessed 8 February 2010].
Anthony Hill, 'Yona Friedman: An Appreciation', RIBA Journal, 83 (1976), 105.
Sabine Lebesque and Helene Fentener van Vlissingen, Yona Friedman (Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 1999).
Pier Vittorio Aureli and Manuel Orazi, 'The Solitude of the Project', Log, 2006, 21-32.
'Yona Friedman', Megastructures Reloaded, http://www.megastructure-reloaded.org/en/yona-friedman/ [accessed 8 February 2010].
"My career in architecture (which was the result of my attitude
towards science, that is, to accept the primordial importance of
individual acts) and was the result of unforesecable individuality
directed towards the field of sociology. The acts of the individual
are totally unpredictable even for himself. But frequently these
unpredictable acts are decisive (they define complicated
processes). As far as the field of architecture is concerned, plans
are no more than statistical fiction (fictions which do not exist
in reality) The important decision is what makes the individual, it
is totally unpredictable. No individual, whether in physics of
particles or in Sociology, behaves according to abstract laws."
- Yona Friedman, interview at http://www.caam.net/caamiaaa/cgi-bin/articulo.asp?idArticulo=582&idioma=EN
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