Visiting A Hero of Architecture

“Do not try to be a specialist- just be a person.”

Yona Friedman

An Architect Between the Utopia and the Reality: Yona Friedman

On 13th of November 2010, we made a visit with students of the Academy of Art, Design and Architecture in Prague to Yona Friedman’s studio in Paris.

Yona Friedman was excited  for talking about his mobile architecture with an endless passion regardless to all those years. He says: “We are doing too much architecture today! We should design what we need.” He smiles and keeps on explain what he means by his statement: “You simple do not need a building sometimes!..”

A form, does it always necessary? You simple need a structure to go around… but the rest?

This words basis his understand of architecture since late 1950’s. After publishing his first manifesto “L’Architecture Mobile” in 1958, Friedman always searched for personal freedom in an urban space and flexibility of user’s  ability to practice their spaces rather than flexible spaces.

After all those years, today Friedman still criticizes the meaning of an urban space. He asks: “Are people really meet in an urban space today? Urban structures have changed! We should accept the fact that reality changes all the time!”

This makes me believe that Friedman and I, share the same thoughts about the space: It cannot be without a movement and It should change all the time- which was the essentials of my Brutal city!

To Friedman, less building means less rigidity. He says, “Commercial mentality became the enemy of itself… All the objects have a use space around them. These spaces are very small. Imagine a flexi-glass box as a symbolic space. Outside of this box, there is the climate. We need energy inside… Mobile space can be used as volumes of any object. You can carry it into every place you want it to be  by pushing it. It will be economic- because whenever you need to heat your place, you can push your box (space) into where the sun hits!”. Friedman has many models of such symbolic boxes, which means less building but more surfaces to him! He mentions that he likes to work with models because he believes in what we can touch. He advised us to make the structural model of our project out of different materials to show how it really works. Besides, he stresses that we should get further than a model and do an unperfected prototype which will make us to see more about our design.

Geometry of Surfaces

“Mathematics tries to formulize sequences. However it is not possible to formulize the sequences of the events! Therefore the geometry based on mathematics is not enough to reflect the real life!”

Friedman believes that architecture is more than geometry. We should be clear enough about what kind of environment we like to form, rather than forming perfect geometries. He says: ‘Space-frame truss is only geometry. However it can take any shape you want!”. To Friedman, everything cannot mathematically be explained, yet architecture is not an art object. We ask him what the solution should be; he simple says “I do not know! I am not writing prescriptions, I just tell my ideas!”

Well, this is what he has been doing more than 50 years without giving up from any of his ideas! Friedman is a true example of someone that you can possible describe as “alive”. He is over 86years old, yet full of energy, talking about his ideas, more than believing he is feeling everything he talks about. At the end of our visit, he  tells us one thing, which I will never forget:

“Do not try to be a specialist- just be a person”.

Friedman’s 4 simple truths:

1st simple truth: We cannot change the universe

2nd simple truth: We do not need to understand the universe

3rd simple truth: We are able to change ourselves

4th simple truth: The universe consists of infinity of erratic micro-events. Each of them is more important than the great ones. *


*taken from the walls of the Friedman’s studio in Paris

“When I was a schoolboy I discovered that a house alone does not exist, that it does not end at the outer limits of the ground floor but continues onto the streets, the garden, then to the house across the street. The house across the street itself continues into what is in front of it, and so forth.”

To imagine one house is to imagine the whole world. (Yona Friedman)

Note: Pictures 1-3-5 were taken  by Katerina Videnova

Read more about him»


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