“If a theory is well constructed and spread abroad, it has the advantage of no longer being the property of specialists, but of stemming from the public domain. The present-day monopoly of the architect has to do with the fact that there is no real theory, but merely a set of pseudo-theories in other words, observations which only reflect the preferences of their authors”.
“A theory must be general and valid for anybody”.
Who is Yona Friedman?
Yona Friedman is a Hungarian-French architect and theorist who design utopian projects that deal with urban planning and empowering the user. His ideas went beyond architecture and planning incorporating contemporary art, sociology and economics. Key to his work was the idea of individual freedom, that is encouraged through unpredictability, play and empowering the end-user.
How did he get started?
Yona Friedman was born in Hungary in 1923 and became a famous architect and urban planner in the late 50’ and early 60’. He grew up in Hungary and during the Second World War joined the resistance during the short time Germany occupied Hungary. His experience as a refugee during the 2nd WW is said to have influenced his social theories. After 10 years in Israel he decided to move permanently in Paris in 1956, here he received a favourable reception to his ideas.
Friedman’s ideas centred on an “architecture with the people, by the people, for the people.” A Democratic architecture that is conceived and materialised by the people. The architect provides ideas, techniques new aesthetics, which are validated only with the people.
The same year he presented his “Manifesto de l’architecture mobile” to the 10th International Congress of Moderne Architecture. He first presented the principles of the “mobile architecture” which is an architecture that is able to understand the constant changes of social mobility. This «architecture mobile» called «mobility of living» by the team 10, promoted planning rules that could be created and recreated, according to the need of the inhabitants and residents.
What is his why?
As Friedman’slater projects show, he practiced his concepts of a feasible utopia through his work with the United Nations and UNESCO on self-building manuals in Africa, South America and India. Friedman always sought to develop projects that were easy for even non-professionals to understand. He even wrote how to comics to explain how to build and make communities.
He sees society as a utopia, which has been realized. In “Utopies Reaslisables”, and he tried to build an objective and coherent theory of social organizations. For him, utopias appear as remedies for a collective dissatisfaction. These utopias could become feasible if they get a collective agreement.
What is his process?
It was Friedman’s emphasis on participation that set him apart from his contemporaries. The user is raised above the architect and the master builder. Friedman used his drawings as a way of expressing his ideas and developing a way to making his ideas understandable for everybody. For example with his work for the UN he developed a language of pictograms that could communicate a method of building using local materials and show information on dealing with issues ranging from water management and infrastructure to food policy.
How is he changing the world?
He sought to widen the relevance of architecture, seeing its practice as a non-specialist discipline, at the crossroads of philosophy, ecology, spirituality, mathematics and the sciences, and relating to every area of society. He has considered that as an architect, his role is to observe individuals, their emotions and their actions, rather than to construct and impose a model. “I think like a sociologist”, he says. Human nature, is unpredictable and uncontrollable so ideal form in architecture is the very absence of planning but it should be free. So the idea of authorship becomes redundant and deceptive; instead, he encourages an organic, growing and improvised architecture, modelled on the future user, who is ultimately given the title of author and creator.
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