Yona Friedman – An architect does not „create“ a city, only an accumulation of objects. It is the inhabitant who „invents“ the city: an uninhabited city, even if new, is only a „ruin“.

I have always been fascinated by the ways architects sought to improve lives of masses. I am also interested in researching the ways by which the society can be shaped through space they live in. The 20th century and its two World Wars gave the reasons for the needs of rebuilding, re-organising and improving the cities which were drastically damaged. There was an urgent need of fast rebuilding of the houses for general public who lost their homes.  This gave rise to ambitious utopian ideas of architects who dreamt of creating a society through their design that had never existed before.

But how has POST-MODERNIST utopian ideas changed from those of MODERISM?

Utopias during modernism were far away from considering the needs of the individual, humans were looked upon as collective masses of people. There was simply no freedom of choice, the space was organized by man in power without asking what the user actually might need.

But after that, the 1960s was a time of utopian visions in architecture, disillusioned by modernism, young architects were looking for an emancipatory potential in their work. Some saw this in the emphasis on mobility and flexibility whilst others saw it in the abolishment of their work and the empowerment of the user, exemplary of the second group was also Yona Friedman.

Yona Friedman’s theories explain the ways by which he hoped to transform social structures. The main aspect of his theories is the conflict between individual and collective needs in society.

In his initial manifesto Friedman points out that architectural knowledge cannot be the exclusive property of professionals and therefore invents of writing guides “manuals” which would explain topics related to architecture and urban planning in clear and simple terms.

  • The Spatial City (Ville spatiale) – housing plan to create structure above an existing city,‘ The framework was to be erected first, and the residences conceived and built by the inhabitants inserted into the voids of the structure. The layout of each level would occupy no more than fifty percent of the overall structure in order to provide air and light to each residence as well as to the city below. The project was designed for construction anywhere, and meant to be adapted to any climate.‘
  • Mobile Architecture (L’Architecture mobile 1958), represents a new kind of mobility but not of the building, but of inhabitants, who are given a new freedom.

An architect does not „create“ a city, only an accumulation of objects. It is the inhabitant who „invents“ the city: an uninhabited city, even if new, is only a „ruin“. For Friedman, it is the individual that is the basis of all human endeavours.

I always wanted to do a blog post about Yona Friedman. I wrote a whole dissertation based on his theories so creating a short summary of his work was quite a task for me.

Yona Friedman is such a inspirational person for me. The research of his work led me to focus on importance of the design processes that are being used by architects and designers and on ‘individuality’ and ‘individual needs’ of the final user of the space.

Yona Friedman’s work inspired me when I was designing my final major project at university the MULTIEVELED VERTICAL URBAN ALLOTMENTS – a series of vertical internal balconies with gardens that carry stories of everybody that contributes to them and where a small – scale landscape is a source of endless originality and individuality. The idea was to design a structure of a building which would then be taken over by its users who would express their own ideas in each allotment-garden.  

Sources: Pro Domo, Yona Friedman 2006



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