French architect of Hungarian birth. He studied architecture at the Technical University, Budapest (1943), but he left Hungary in 1945, completed his training at the Technion, Haifa (Dip. Arch., 1948) and subsequently taught. In 1956 he attended CIAM X in Dubrovnik, which confirmed his belief that requirements generated by technological progress and demographic growth were too great to be solved by traditional social, urban and architectural values and structures. In 1957 he settled in Paris and founded the Groupe d’Etude d’Architecture Mobile (GEAM) with Paul Maymont, Frei Otto, Eckard Schultze-Fielitz, Werner Runhau and D. G. Emmerich. The group’s manifesto was Friedman’s L’Architecture mobile (1958), in which he rejected the idea of a static city. In contrast he developed the principle of ‘infrastructure’, a skeletal metal ‘space-frame grid’ of several levels, on which mobile lightweight ‘space-defining elements’ would be placed. He proposed to adapt these ideas for large cities by superimposing this grid on the existing fabric of London, Tunis and New York, or by allowing commercial facilities to be built over the network of high speed roads in Los Angeles.
Friedman’s ambition was ‘to help the inhabitant to become master of his own design’, the sub-title of L’Architecture mobile, and to encourage architects to become less self-important and to gain an awareness of how they could be useful to their client. Applications of his participatory concepts were used in an unexecuted project for the CDC headquarters in Ivry-sur-Seine (1976) and the Lycée David d’Angers, Angers (1978–80). His ideas, conveyed by simple diagrams and cartoons, gained a significant popular appeal. His exhibition Une Utopie réalisée drew a record attendance at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 1975 and it later toured Latin America, sponsored by the French government.
A gifted self-promoter, Friedman wrote and lectured extensively, and in the early 1960s his ideas began to be discussed worldwide, especially in Japan where they were adopted by Kenzo Tange and exponents of ‘metabolist’ architecture. Many urban planners, architects and critics found his concepts too simplistic and objected that occupants would never accept the state of being disconnected from ground level. In Pour une architecture scientifique (1970), Friedman attempted to prove that his visions were based on careful reasoning. After 1976 he enlarged the scope of his activities, adapting his theories to the needs of developing countries. In 1981 he began work with Eda Schaur (b 1945) on a museum where techniques and methods for self-reliance would be demonstrated to disadvantaged people, resulting in the Museum of Basic Technology, Madras, India.
From Grove Art Online
© 2009 Oxford University Press