Born and schooled in Budapest, active in Haifa until 1957 and later in Paris, Yona Friedman, like many of his contemporaries, has concentrated on the scale of the city as it has evolved. His proposed ideal architecture is open in character, as this drawing for his Spatial City Project shows. The Spatial City is a unit that can be repeated ad infinitum. All of the structural elements connected to the individual user, such as walls, floor slabs, and partitions, are radically mobile, and the architecture deliberately avoids committing itself to any particular style or pattern of use. Versatile and free as Friedman's composition is, however, it is contained by a superior order, on which it relies: the wide grid of pillars and slabs on which it stands. Friedman called this grid the "spatial infrastructure," and designed it for collective use. The user's determination was to play as important a role in it as the architect's: "Mobile architecture looks for techniques which don't impose a preconceived plan. . . . It is the user who makes the project with a potential 'designer's participation.'" The design of Friedman's ideal city is only perfected in its use.
The concept of mobile architecture was Friedman's contribution to the tenth International Congress of Modern Architecture (CIAM) in Dubrovnik in 1956. It was during this session of the congress that modernism was famously called into question as an outdated, static scheme inappropriate for new global realities. Friedman's concept highlighted the relationship between social dynamics and architecture in the proto-postmodern world, and suggested to architects how they could include that relationship in their thinking about the future.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Paola Antonelli, in Matilda McQuaid, ed., Envisioning Architecture: Drawings from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002, p. 128.
The Spatial City (Ville spatiale) is an unrealized theoretical construct inspired by the housing shortage in France during the late 1950s and by Yona Friedman's deep belief that housing plans and structures should allow for the free will of the individual inhabitants. Not wanting to displace the city below, Friedman raised a second city fifteen to twenty meters above the existing one. 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.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Bevin Cline and Tina di Carlo, in Terence Riley, ed., The Changing of the Avant-Garde: Visionary Architectural Drawings from the Howard Gilman Collection, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002, p. 40.