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Friedman (Yona) Papers
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Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Administrative Information
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Yona Friedman papers
    Date (inclusive): 1956-2006
    Number: 2008.M.51
    Creator/Collector: Friedman, Yona
    Physical Description: 75.8 Linear Feet (161 boxes, 15 flatfiles, 5 boxed rolls)
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles 90049-1688
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/askref
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: The Yona Friedman papers contain manuscripts, sketches and drawings, and photographs and slides documenting the broad intellectual activity of this visionary architect and planner. In his primary role as a theoretician, Friedman was a key participant in many of the defining architectural discussions of the second half of the twentieth century, including topics such as megastructures, prefabrication and modular construction, adaptability and participatory design.
    Request Materials: Request access to the physical materials described in this inventory through the catalog record   for this collection. Click here for the access policy .
    Language: Collection material is primarily in French and English

    Biographical/Historical Note

    Yona Friedman has spent his almost seventy-year career defying definition and categories. Architect, urbanist, filmmaker, sociologist, theoretician, philosopher, economist, mathematician, physicist, artist-Friedman is all, and yet not precisely any, of these, as the vocations are usually interpreted. The roles of architect and urbanist may weave the most consistent thread through his long history, but Friedman's work forces a re-evaluation of what it means to be either of these. Although he can claim only a handful of realized structures, Friedman cannot be dismissed as a mere utopian visionary. Seeded by experiences in the massive political and social upheaval of the mid-20th century-the Holocaust, life as a refugee in the aftermath of World War II, nation-building in Israel-Friedman's ideas on the built environment and its inhabitants have been key elements in the architectural and urban planning discourses of the second half of the twentieth century and beyond.
    It can be as difficult to precisely pin down Friedman's biography as it is to label his career; as many of the facts of Friedman's life are seemingly elusive. Over the years, in various interviews and publications, Friedman and his interpreters have presented differing chronologies, versions of events in his life and work, and their meanings. Rather than seeing his biography as a linear historic narrative, Friedman has lived a mythology.
    Janos Antal Friedman was born on June 5, 1923 in Budapest. His father Shimon was a lawyer and Friedman had a comfortable upbringing. Although he claims to have experienced little direct discrimination while growing up, the steadily progressing anti-Semitism in Hungary between the wars certainly constrained Friedman's future. Before he was born, the admission of Jews to the university system had been sharply limited, and in the later 1930s as the country allied itself with Nazi Germany, options closed further for the teenage Friedman. Beginning in 1938, a series of laws dramatically reduced Jewish participation in the economy and the professions.
    As a young man, Friedman managed to skirt the system and pursue his education, even if unofficially. While in high school, he was able to attend public lectures by noted scholars, and was particularly influenced by those of philologist Karolyi Kerenyi and physicist Werner Heisenberg, who visited Budapest in the spring of 1941. From these two very different scholars, the young Friedman learned to reject the division of knowledge into separate disciplines and to value a unified system of thought, intellectual stances that would govern Friedman's work throughout his life. Although barred from actually enrolling in university, beginning in 1943 Friedman audited the program of the School of Architecture at the Palatine Joseph University of Technology and Economics. Iván Kotsis, the dean, allowed this special access because, according to Friedman, Kotsis thought he showed promise.
    The relatively insulated state of affairs for the Jews in Hungary, in comparison to other areas of Europe, came to an end in the spring of 1944, when German troops occupied the country. Deportations began and were carried out with a particular ferocity. By this time, Friedman had joined a Zionist resistance group. In Budapest, a chief method of resistance was the production of false documents shielding people from deportation and Friedman, who had taken "Yona" as his nom de guerre, used his artistic skills to forge the signatures. In October 1944, however, he was denounced by someone at the university, arrested on political charges and turned over to the Gestapo. This political arrest may well have saved him from deportation to a death camp as a Jew, and the rapidly deteriorating military situation also worked in his favor. That same month the Soviet army crossed the Hungarian border and by the end of December, Budapest was completely surrounded. The retreating Gestapo turned their prisoners over to the Hungarian police, who soon released him. Yona Friedman now had to learn how to survive winter in a devastated city. There was no food. There was no clean water. There was no electricity. It was very cold in buildings with all the windows blown out. Life was honed to the essentials.
    Friedman left Budapest that spring, rejecting Hungary and its anti-Semitism in pursuit of the promise of Israel. After the war, Romania became a gathering point for surviving Jews hoping to emigrate to British Mandate Palestine, and the Zionist resistance groups refocused their efforts on helping Jews get to Bucharest and beyond. Friedman spent eleven months in Romania waiting for an exit visa and transport. This period of limbo waiting in refugee-camp conditions in Bucharest, directly on the heels of living in war-destroyed Budapest, was a formative period in the development of Friedman's ideas of architecture. Architecture was about survival. It was about a roof and shelter. It was about housing sudden, large influxes of people within the limited infrastructure of existing cities. It was about several families finding a way to share one room in an apartment. Friedman's earliest project, Panel-Chains, a prefabricated, flexible technique for temporarily dividing interior space, was conceived in this period as a response to his personal experience of these conditions. Indeed, Friedman has characterized his oeuvre as a product of World War II.
    Friedman's connections with the Zionist groups in Romania must have been strong, because in the spring of 1946 he was on the first of the unauthorized ships to depart Romania for British Mandate Palestine, which was not accepting refugees. On May 7, the Greek-flagged ship, the Smirni, renamed the Max Nordau by the emigrants, left the Romanian port of Constanta. The sailing was organized by the Mossad LeAliyah Bet, with the Soviet-controlled Romanian government turning a blind eye, under the guise that the passengers all held visas to go to Mexico or Costa Rica. The British Royal Navy stopped the ship at sea off the coast of Haifa, but allowed it to land because it was overloaded and had run out of water and provisions. The 1666 emigrants aboard were briefly detained at the Athlit camp outside Haifa.
    In Palestine, Friedman initially lived in Kfar Glikson, a kibbutz, along with a number of other Hungarian settlers. He found kibbutz life, especially, in its attempt to create a form of socialist utopia, fulfilling and indeed many of his later ideas, like the function of the critical group seem to hark back to this experience. Yet Friedman had other plans, and after six months, he gained admission to the architecture program at the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology) and moved to Haifa.
    Resuming his education was not simple for Friedman. Academically, he had no transcripts or records. Iván Kotsis, the Budapest dean, again interceded, writing a letter certifying Friedman's study, which enabled him to enroll as a third-year student. Financially, having just arrived as a refugee, Friedman had few resources. In order to support himself while studying, he worked two days a week as an unskilled manual laborer on construction sites, an unusual crossing of professional and class boundaries. Soon his education was halted again for a year by yet another war. In the Israeli War of Independence he served in the Engineering Corps constructing fortifications. Friedman finally received his architecture degree from the Technion in 1949.
    In addition to his degree, 1949 brought other transitions for Friedman. He married his first wife Erella Schneerson, whose family was part of the long-resident Jewish establishment in Palestine. The marriage was brief, ending in 1953, and they had one daughter, Anat. Friedman also took his first trip to Western Europe, which he saw as a very different Europe from his previous experience of Budapest and Vienna. He visited Florence, Rome and Paris, and even went so far as to contact Le Corbusier.
    Returning to Israel from this European trip, Friedman set about assembling a career as an architect. From 1950 to 1954, he served as an advisor on fortifications of new settlements for a section of the Israeli General Staff. Simultaneously, he began to build an independent practice, and eventually formed a loose partnership with Renzo Voghera, another emigrant architect. During this time, aided somewhat by his wife's family connections, Friedman designed conventional private homes and apartment buildings. Beginning in 1952, he also taught as an assistant at the Technion.
    It was in these years of Friedman's early career in Israel that his ideas of mobile architecture began to take a definite shape. Mobile architecture not in the sense of movement through space, but mobile architecture in the sense of the rejection of the static form, the embrace of adaptability and flexibility. Drawing on his own experiences, as well as the pressures of intense expansion witnessed in his work with the Israeli government, the unrealized projects Friedman designed in this period, such as Movable Boxes and Cylindrical Shelters, were exercises in re-use and prefabrication, adaptability and rapid response to shifting civic needs. This focus on adaptability reached its purest distillation in a design in which the kitchen and bathroom, typically the most fixed points in a residence, rigid infrastructure controlled by water and sewage lines, were treated essentially as furniture, completely moveable and adaptable to changing needs. His initial efforts in inhabitant participation on a larger scale project also date to this period. In 1952 for a commission to design Haifa's first large public housing project, Friedman attempted to involve the future residents in the design process. This impulse was soon stopped by the government, which, when viewing the same housing crisis as Friedman, saw the answer in firm, central, top-down planning.
    A critical event in the development of Friedman's ideas was the arrival of Konrad Wachsmann, a pioneer of prefabrication and space-frame structures, as a visiting professor at the Technion in 1953-1954. Wachsmann's space frames, created using industrially-produced, modular elements with sophisticated joints, had innumerable configurations and potentially unlimited extension, supporting spans of up to 40 meters. This idea of massive, prefabricated spanning structures enthralled an array of young architects from the mid-1950s through the 1960s, including the Metabolists (Wachsmann taught in Tokyo in 1955), and Archigram. For a generation of architects and planners, faith in a new social vision and rapid technological advances combined with seeds sown in Le Corbusier's Plan Obus for Algiers fueled the dreams of the megastructure. For Friedman specifically, Wachsmann's space-frame structures provided the technique of infrastructure his developing ideas of mobility needed.
    In this time of important intellectual growth, Friedman was not only constrained in his architectural practice, but he was also finding no support in the academic world of the Technion. His thesis proposal towards an advanced degree, the beginnings of "L'architecture mobile," was rejected. Alfred Neumann, the current dean, although a modernist, was not interested in prefabrication nor in participatory design and planning. Yet, Friedman was sure that there must be a more receptive audience for his ideas of architecture, so against Neumann's discouragement Friedman went looking for it.
    Friedman attended the Congrès internationaux d'architecture moderne (CIAM) X in Dubrovnik in 1956 as an unofficial participant. The theme of the conference was Habitat, and mobility was one of the topics discussed. Friedman presented a paper in the session on Change and Growth but found that his ideas were not accepted by most of the participants. His foray outside of the insular world of Israeli architecture was not the success he had hoped for, but he was able to meet a small number of architects who were open to his ideas, including Günther Kühne, who asked him to outline his ideas for an article in Bauwelt. By the time he returned to Israel late that fall, it was becoming clear to Friedman that he needed a change. He was becoming disillusioned with the new Israel he saw developing; the classless society he had known was disappearing. Also, even his brief time at CIAM had shown him that there were like-minded architects, at least a few. He just had to find them.
    In 1957 Friedman's exposure to the broader architectural community at CIAM began to bear fruit. The Bauwelt article appeared and Frei Otto wrote to him after reading it. That summer Friedman traveled to Berlin for the Interbau exhibition. He then continued on to Amsterdam in August, and Paris in September. Through contacts made at CIAM or due to his Bauwelt article, Friedman connected with a network of architects who were receptive to his theories, including Frei Otto, Jaap Bakema, Gerrit Rietveld, Jan Trapman, André Sive and Jean Prouvé, as well as meeting again with Le Corbusier. Prouvé was interested in Friedman's ideas to such an extent that he sponsored Friedman's French visa extension, thinking that he would incorporate Friedman into some of his prefabrication projects. Greatly encouraged by this reaction, Friedman returned briefly to Israel in December to close that chapter of his life, and in January returned to Paris, which became his permanent home.
    Friedman's career coalesced in Paris in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and over the next decade, Friedman would become well known within architectural circles for his numerous publications, lectures and exhibits. Upon his arrival in Paris in early 1958, Friedman immediately took steps to realize projects he had been planning in Israel and to disseminate his ideas through publications and a professional network.
    Although the potential project with Prouvé fell through, Friedman quickly found other collaborators. In the fall of 1957, Trapman had introduced him to Jean-Pierre Pecquet, and now Friedman and Pecquet, working as partners, attempted to put one of Friedman's earlier projects, Cylindrical Shelters, into commercial production. The pair succeeded in producing a relatively low-cost prototype and Pecquet worked on a display for the 1958 World's Fair in Brussels, but the project never found its niche. This project would also be one of Friedman's last forays into conventional design using architectural drawings, and marked the end of Friedman's career as a practicing architect.
    Also at this time Friedman organized the ideas he had been working on, the ideas from his Dubrovnik presentation, into the first draft of his theoretical manifesto "L'architecture mobile." The manifesto, which went through several iterations over the next five years, each with further examples and development of his theories, was produced and distributed by Friedman in mimeographed form.
    Friedman defined mobile architecture as a system of construction allowing the inhabitant to determine the form, orientation and style of their apartment, and to readily change these elements whenever they wanted. When expanded to a group, making decisions about a neighborhood, this system becomes mobile urbanism. La ville spatiale or the spatial city is the application of this theory, using spatial infrastructure, such as a space frame. In its most simplistic form, Friedman's master idea involved the use of massive, multi-leveled space-frame structures rising several stories above a city (or natural feature). These space frames would be supported by enormous pilotis or pillars, which would provide access to the elevated area and be the conduit for access and the delivery of utilities. The framework would be filled in with individual, prefabricated units, whose positioning, density and use could be altered as needed. The transverse elements of the structures would begin 15-20 meters above ground level and only fifty percent of each level would be built out, thereby ensuring light and air flow. The individual infill units were also completely "mobile," with all elements, such as walls, windows, and bathrooms, flexible and inhabitant-designed.
    Friedman's ideas of mobile architecture and the spatial city were meant to address three key issues of concern to architects and planners at the time: explosive growth in cities and a resulting housing crisis, due to postwar demographic shifts; the inflexibility of the existing architectural stock; and a questioning of whether architects were adequately serving their clients' needs. All these were questions Friedman had begun considering while still in Israel, and although he laid out his solutions first in "L'architecture mobile," he continued to work out answers to these concepts throughout his career.
    Friedman's city-above-the-city space-frame structures directly addressed the need for increased urban capacity and flexibility. Then, as is still often the case today, the typical response to problems of urban overcrowding was to demolish existing low-density structures and replace them with higher capacity ones, usually tower blocks. Friedman opposed this destruction and instead wanted to preserve the current city by intensifying it with elevated structures. The flexibility of his infill units in the inhabited voids of the space frame further alleviated issues such as housing shortages, because this new architectural stock could easily respond to shifting functional needs.
    The third issue Friedman addressed was the role of the architect and their relationship to the client, and it was this element that was fundamentally most controversial. Friedman wanted to radically redefine what it meant to be an architect. As early as his work on the shikun in Haifa, Friedman had seen inhabitant participation as essential to the future of architecture. He was certainly not alone in this idea, but his conception of what participation meant was different from that held by others. By the late 1950s, after increasing problems in the postwar "grands ensembles," there were even official attempts to integrate inhabitant input into subsidized housing in the Paris area. These attempts, and most participation projects, used focus groups and data modelling to predict the needs and desires of the "average" inhabitant. Friedman, however, had taken his early exposure to Heisenberg and the Uncertainty Principle to the sociological level, believing that it was impossible for an architect to predict inhabitants' needs, and combined this with an extreme conception of the individual, in which an average being could not exist. For Friedman, any design involving modelled behavior or an "average" inhabitant did not count as participatory. To him, the notion of an "average being" was just more of the same Modernist paternalism. For Friedman, the inhabitant had to be the designer, as in his spatial city where the inhabitant had complete control over the individual infill units and their placement in the space-frame. Aside from developing the infrastructure, the architect's only role would be technical and informational, to ensure that inhabitants had a set of building element options, from which to choose. The architect creates no final product, only initiates a process. Needless to say, Friedman's re-definition and renunciation of the architect's current role was not well received by most of the profession.
    It was also in 1958 that Friedman established his first professional network organization. While in Paris in the fall of 1957, Friedman had met with Roger Aujame and Pecquet and discussed forming a group to explore issues of mobility. The Groupe des études d'architecture mobile (GEAM), with Friedman as leader and other founding members including Pecquet, Aujame, Jerzy Soltan, Georges Emmerich and Jan Trapman, met for the first time in Rotterdam in March 1958. The membership and list of those associated soon expanded to include Frei Otto, Eckhard Schultze-Fielitz, Gunther Gunschel, Makowski, Werner Ruhnau, Gunther Kuhne, Masata Otaka, Erik Friberger, Camille Frieden and Paul Maymont. Addressing what they saw as the failure of urban planning, the members of GEAM promoted mobile megastructures made from prefabricated materials with varying degrees of adaptability. By the time it disbanded in 1962, GEAM had issued a manifesto outlining its beliefs, held annual meetings and curated a traveling exhibition of the members' work.
    It is important to note that Friedman and the members of GEAM were not the only architects working in this vein at this time, although Friedman always claimed the nature of his work was different from that of others. For example, Nikolaas Habraken, a Dutch architect, devised a similar fixed superstructure in which inhabitants could design their own living quarters. Better known is the New Babylon project of Constant Nieuwenhuys, who even took part in a GEAM exhibition in Amsterdam. Yet, Friedman asserted that although the projects might be similar in form, they were completely unrelated, because they derived from different philosophical and ideological bases – Habraken thought like an engineer, Constant thought like an artist, whereas he thought like a sociologist.
    Thus by the end of the 1950s, Friedman had melded the lessons of his earlier life-experiences of survival, basic needs, and the methods of accommodating population shifts; ideas about creating different modes of communication, working outside the normal path and challenging boundaries-into an overarching approach to architecture and planning.
    The 1960s would be a period of consolidation for Friedman. He firmly committed to his new life in Paris, marrying Denise Charvein, a film editor, with whom he would soon have a second daughter, and becoming a French citizen. The decade began on a potentially auspicious note with Friedman being invited to the post-CIAM meeting held by Team 10 at Bagnols-sur-Cèze in July 1960, raising hope that his work was being accepted by the Modernist mainstream. Yet, once again, his ideas, a presentation of the spatial city, received little interest from most attendees, and were indeed savagely rejected by Alison Smithson.
    As Friedman's attempts to create a practice in France faded with the failure of his projects with Pecquet, he explored other sources of revenue. In the early 1960s, Friedman began making animated films in collaboration with Charvein. Using a style of drawing reminiscent of the images in "L'architecture mobile," Friedman started producing films based on African folktales. After the success of an initial example, ORTF, the French state television authority, commissioned over a dozen more. The African films were quite successful, even winning the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival in 1962, and Friedman gradually expanded the work to other themes. In certain respects, Friedman's animated films also laid the groundwork for his subsequent "manuals," developing the basic idea of conveying information with very simplified drawings explained with minimal dialogue.
    In 1964 a further source of revenue appeared. Friedman began guest lecturing and giving seminars in the United States. Invited first by Soltan, who was now a professor in the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, Friedman would spend part of each year at American universities, including University of Michigan (1968-1969), Carnegie Mellon University (1969-1970), University of California, Los Angeles (1969-1970) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1970-1974). Friedman's classroom lectures and his access to the computing resources of large academic research institutions helped him further develop his theories in this period, especially in the area of participation. When conceptualizing participation, Friedman had soon realized that most inhabitants would need guidance in planning their space and he had begun to develop systems to aid their choices. In this period, Friedman began using graph theory and diagrams as visual languages to help guide and instruct inhabitants in choosing elements. By the late 1960s under the influence of cybernetics, he was also developing a new system, the Flatwriter, a sort of hypothetical proto-computer, to guide inhabitants away from poor design choices and structural errors before construction. At the unveiling of a prototype of the Flatwriter at Expo '70 in Osaka, potential inhabitants could design their space using a keyboard to select from among 53 architectural elements.
    Alongside these revenue-producing activities, Friedman continued his theoretical work on mobile architecture and the spatial city. He spent the 1960s demonstrating the range of combinations, conditions and locations in which the spatial city could be implemented. With the actual realization of his projects unlikely, he now just focused on communicating his ideas, in the face of general opinion. From Africa to the English Channel, over established cities and natural features, numerous projects were designed by Friedman using his spatial infrastructure principles and meant to demonstrate the feasibility of his thesis-a practice he continues to this day. Yet, among all these varied places, Friedman's adopted home of Paris became his most frequent and evocative location for creating a spatial city. By applying his theories not just to marginal locations, his work surprisingly became part of the discussion in the early 1960s on the restructuring of Paris. Michel Ragon, the influential art historian, critic and writer, championed Friedman's work and exposed it to a much wider general intellectual audience.
    Ragon promoted a wide range of what he called "prospective" architecture, frequently condemned as unrealistic and utopian. He shared Friedman's view that society should not have to adapt to the built environment, but rather the built environment should adapt to society. Mobile architecture and spatial urbanism was made necessary by societal change. So if these projects remained unbuilt and "utopian," it was due to a failure of society to adequately respond to change by restructuring itself economically, socially, and legally; it was not a failure in the architecture, since the projects were technically possible.
    Among visionary ideas for the new city in the 1960s, Friedman's stood out, in part due to his unremitting flow of publications, but also because of how he presented his vision. It was in this period that Friedman began to widely convey his ideas for this ville spatiale visually, through drawing, collage, and most strikingly, photomontage, a technique not yet in common use for architectural representation. Photographic images ranging from old postcards to prints by photographers such as Robert Doisneau served as the base for the addition of Friedman's spatial infrastructure. These colorful, visually striking representations of his theories are in many respects what set Friedman apart from his contemporary theorists on the city.
    Friedman marked the beginning of the 1970s by consolidating his earlier theoretical writings. In 1970 and 1971, Friedman published a collection of writings on mobile architecture and the notes from his lectures in the United States, in L'architecture mobile and Pour une architecture scientifique . However, even with the appearance of these definitive publications, Friedman's theories were finding less of an audience as architectural trends changed. By the early 1970s interest in the megastructure form - so frequently designed, yet so rarely built - was rapidly waning. From the 1970s into the 1990s, Friedman shifted the focus of his work. He had always seemed to be much more interested in the inhabitants of his architecture than the structure itself, and now that sociological aspect of his work dominated.
    Abandoning his faith in the high tech future, Friedman now concentrated on self-sufficiency and low tech solutions. At a time when a utopian vision was totally out of fashion in architectural circles, Friedman considered their meaning and feasibility. Going back to the principles of the kibbutz, and other small autonomously organized groups, Friedman explored the dynamic of the "critical group." Having long felt an affinity for the marginalized, Friedman now concentrated on issues of democratization, poverty and the Third World.
    Also in the 1970s Friedman began developing his "manual" form. Focusing on visual language and alternative communication methods, Friedman endeavored to create a new way to communicate design. Beginning in 1972-1973 with a project to teach school children about architecture, Friedman used simple, almost child-like drawings with brief accompanying text in a bande-dessinée or comic book style to convey information. After this initial usage, the format was quickly implemented as a learning tool for an adult audience. By the mid to late 1970s, as Friedman's attention was turning to the developing world, the initial architectural subject matter of the manuals was expanding accordingly. The manuals had also ceased to be a small personal exercise and were finding major sponsors, including the Council of Europe and United Nations programs, such as UNESCO. The manuals would reach their fullest form in the 1980s in the work of the Friedman's Communication Centre of Scientific Knowledge for Self-Reliance (CCSK).
    In 1982 Friedman established the CCSK under the aegis of the United Nations University (UNU), which was also its primary funding source. A very small organization - really just Friedman, his collaborator Eda Schaur, a researcher at the University of Stuttgart, who served as Assistant Director, and the occasional consultant - the CCSK stated its goal as bridging the gap between scientific research and innovation and the world's poor, those who needed it most, yet usually had the least access, by creating communication tools. This goal found its expression in Friedman's manuals, which were relatively inexpensive, locally adaptable and easily translated. The subject matter rapidly expanded to cover a wide range of topics including housing and shelter, water management, food and energy sources, sanitation and health, as well as social issues. The primary area of distribution of this material was Asia, particularly India, as well as Africa and Latin America. In addition to the individual manuals and their packaging into topical sets, Friedman envisioned further extensions of the material, such as the "Popular Encyclopedia of Survival," a compendium of all knowledge necessary for self-sufficiency. In addition to the printed manuals, Friedman's picture scripts were delivered in various ways, including wall journals, posters, slides and planned animations, or an entire didactic complex like the Museum of Simple Technology in Madras.
    Ironically, it was in this period of moving away from architecture that Friedman got his first major commission in France. For the first time since leaving Israel, Friedman would be paid as an architect. In 1974, Compagnie Dubonnet-Cinzano (CDC) decided to convert a large warehouse structure into office space, and Friedman almost got his first chance to actually implement mobile architecture. The building was self-planned by the employees after having been trained using a manual and the result was completely adaptable. Unfortunately, the company was sold before the project was realized and the new owners had no interest in proceeding. Friedman's theories of mobility and self-planning were finally realized a few years later with the Lycée David at Angers. Beginning in 1978, teachers, parents and other stakeholders defined the number, size and placement of rooms and spaces of their new school (within the guidelines of the Ministry of Education) using relational diagrams. Friedman's role was to make sure that the diagrams created by the stakeholders worked technically, that the school would meet construction and zoning codes and to control the budget. Friedman's only realized structure since leaving Israel was completed in 1980.
    In the early 1990s, when the CCSK lost its funding, Friedman's work turned from the developing world back to earlier preoccupations. He revisited longtime interests in mathematics and physics. In addition to continuing to create visualizations of spatial cities around the world, Friedman explored architecture with unconventional forms, including amorphous and anthropomorphic structures, as well as Merz-structures.
    In the last few decades, there has been a strong revival of interest in Friedman's work. This is due, in part, to the fact that participation, sustainability and responses to overcrowding and inflexibility are features in the current architectural dialogue. Much of the recent interest in Friedman's work has, however, come from the world of contemporary art. From early in his career, Friedman found an audience for his ideas in artistic circles. As early as 1963 he was invited by Pierre Restany to exhibit at Galerie J. In recent years, Friedman has taken part in Documenta XI, the Yokohama Triennial, and two Venice Biennales. His arresting visual elements, in combination with his philosophy of participation, have resonated with relational art, bringing new exposure to his work.
    Partial list of secondary sources consulted for the finding aid notes (in addition to Friedman's published works and materials in the archive):
    Banham, Reyner. Megastructure: Urban Futures of the Recent Past. New York: Harper & Row, 1976.
    Busbea, Larry. Topologies: The Urban Utopia in France, 1960-1970. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2007.
    De Wit, Wim. "The Papers of Yona Friedman." Getty Research Journal 1 (2009): 191-204.
    Deyong, Sarah. "Memories of the Urban Future: The Rise and Fall of the Megastructure." In The Changing of the Avant-garde: Visionary Drawings from the Howard Gilman Collection , 23-35. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2002.
    Eaton, Ruth. Ideal Cities: Utopianism and the (Un) Built Environment. Antwerp: Mercatorfonds, 2001.
    Edery, Georges. "Entretiens avec Yona Friedman." Le carré bleu , no. 3/4 (2014): 15-25.
    Escher, Cornelia Regine. "Mega-structuralism and the Groupe d'Étude d'Architecture Mobile." In Structuralism Reloaded: Rule-based Design in Architecture and Urbanism , 214-221. Stuttgart: Edition Axel Menges, 2011.
    Escher, Cornelia. "Du GEAM au GIAP: Michel Ragon et la culture de l'architecture visionnaire en France." In Michel Ragon: Critique d'art et d'architecture , 203-220. Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes, 2013.
    Fentener van Vlissingen, Helene (ed.). Yona Friedman. http://www.yonafriedman.nl.
    Hoorn, Melanie van der. Bricks & Balloons: Architecture in Comic-strip Form. Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2012.
    Lebesque, Sabine and Helene Fentener van Vlissingen (eds.). Yona Friedman: Structures Serving the Unpredictable. Rotterdam, NAI Publishers, 1999.
    Mumford, Eric. The CIAM Discourse on Urbanism, 1928-1960. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000.
    Newsome, W. Brian. "The 'Apartment Referendum' of 1959: Toward Participatory Architectural and Urban Planning in Postwar France." French Historical Studies 28 (2005): 329-358.
    Newsome, W. Brian. French Urban Planning 1940-1968: The Construction and Deconstruction of an Authoritarian System. New York: Peter Lang, 2009.
    Obrist, Hans Ulrich. Yona Friedman. Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 2007.
    Obrist, Hans Ulrich "Ever Yona, Yona, Ever." In Arquitectura con la gente, por la gente, para la gente , 138-161. León: MUSAC, 2011.
    Obrist, Hans Ulrich und Wolfgang Fiel. "Im Gespräch mit Ekhard Schulze-Fielitz und Yona Friedman, London 21.2.2008." In Eckhard Schulze-Fielitz: Metasprache des Raums , edited by Wolfgang Fiel, 404-431 Vienna: Springer, 2010.
    Orazi, Manuel, and Yona Friedman. "A Conversation With Yona Friedman." Log, no. 26 (2012): 60-75. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41765760.
    Orazi, Manuel. "Yona Friedman: Biography and Works." In Yona Friedman , edited by Luca Cerizza and Anna Daneri, 91-93. Milan: Charta, 2008.
    Orazi, Manuel. "The Erratic Universe of Yona Friedman." In Arquitectura con la gente, por la gente, para la gente, 108-135. León: MUSAC, 2011.
    Orazi, Manuel. "The Erratic Universe of Yona Friedman." In Yona Friedman: The Dilution of Architecture , by Yona Friedman and Manuel Orazi, 269-541. Zurich: Park Books, 2015. With response: Friedman, Yona. "Lettre de Yona Friedman à son biographe Manuel Orazi." Tracés 19 August 2015. https://www.espazium.ch/lettre-de-yona-friedman-a-son-biographe-manuel-orazi.
    Orazi, Manuel, and Yona Friedman. "A Conversation with Yona Friedman." Log, no. 26 (2012): 60-75. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41765760.
    Ragon, Michel. Prospective et Futurologie: Histoire mondiale de l'architecture et de l'urbanisme modernes. Paris: Casterman, 1978.
    Rauchwerger, Daniel. "A Model Architect." Haaretz 30 September 2015. https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/a-model-architect-1.396308
    Steiner, Hadas. Beyond Archigram: The Structure of Circulation. New York: Routledge, 2009.
    Stempl, Markus. "The Structuralist Approach and the City in Space: Floating Cities for a Globalized Community, 1958-1974." In Structuralism Reloaded: Rule-based Design in Architecture and Urbanism , 204-213. Stuttgart: Edition Axel Menges, 2011.
    Tan, Pelin. "Yona Friedman and GEAM." In Megastructure Reloaded: Visionary Architecture and Urban Design of the Sixties Reflected by Contemporary Artists , 124-128. Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2008.
    Wigley, Mark. Constant's New Babylon: The Hyper-architecture of Desire. Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 1998.
    Willemin, Veronique. Maisons mobiles. Paris: Éditions alternatives, 2004.

    Administrative Information


    Open for use by qualified researchers, with the exception of restricted material in Box 142A.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    Yona Friedman papers, 1956-2006, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 2008.M.51

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired in 2008.

    Processing History

    When received by the Getty Research Institute in 2008, the archive was housed in 256 cardboard or plastic containers. In its original state, 204 containers bore numbers, not in a complete sequence, and with numbers repeating. Many of Friedman's original containers were further divided into folders given an alphabetical or numerical subdivision. This numbering scheme on the containers and folders correlated with the numbering of an inventory supplied by Friedman (see Series VIII), with the exception of missing numbers. The majority of the remaining containers were unidentified, while a few had a brief textual identification.
    In 2011, Polly Hunter, working under the supervision of Ann Harrison, surveyed the collection. It was soon discovered that although the numbering scheme on the containers corresponded to the supplied inventory, the actual contents of the containers and folders generally did not. Also some containers and folders listed in the inventory were not present in the archive. The inventory appeared to reflect an earlier state of the archive with the contents of containers shifted and altered since its composition. In most instances, the contents of containers and folders were quite diverse, and without a valid inventory attempts to create an archival structure using these units failed. In consultation with the acquiring curator Wim DeWit, the head of Special Collections cataloging Andra Darlington and Friedman himself, Hunter and Harrison derived a new arrangement for the collection (see Arrangement Note above) and Hunter began processing the archive. In 2015-2017, Ann Harrison completed the processing and wrote the finding aid. Tracy Bonfitto and Linta Kunnathuparambil provided help identifying translations of manuals.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Yona Friedman papers contain manuscripts, sketches and drawings, and photographs and slides documenting the broad intellectual activity of this visionary architect and planner. In his primary role as a theoretician, Friedman was a key participant in many of the defining architectural discussions of the second half of the twentieth century, including topics such as megastructures, prefabrication and modular construction, adaptability and participatory design.
    The focus of the archive is the development of Friedman's ideas and methodology. Therefore, manuscripts, typescripts and production materials for the working stages of his visualizations form the bulk of the material. For example, in the case of the colorful collages and photomontages for which Friedman is perhaps best known, the archive contains the production materials and early versions, and generally photocopies of the finished work, but not the final work itself, with very few exceptions. Such works, as well as Friedman's full-color renderings and his maquettes, are not included in the archive, but are represented by photographs or photocopies.
    Yona Friedman has always emphasized the dissemination of his ideas, and the first four series of the archive represent media and channels of expression used for this purpose. Friedman's writings comprise Series I. Included here are the production materials for Friedman's books, articles, lectures and project proposals, as well as copies of published work. Series II contains similar materials for Friedman's manuals and other graphic works created in his distinctive bande dessinée style. The proposals and visualizations of Friedman's design competition entries, a further way to gain exposure, form Series III. Series IV comprises the production materials for, and documentation of, numerous exhibitions and other displays of Friedman's work.
    The studies and visualizations of Friedman's architectural and planning projects form Series V. As in the previous series, working and production materials rather than final versions predominate. The projects documented range from early work on the general principles of mobile architecture and the spatial city in the late 1950s to his specific 2005 design of a spatial city for Venice.
    The remaining four series of the archive deal with other aspects of Friedman's career. Series VI contains materials relating to various professional organizations with which Friedman was associated, such as Groupe d'études d'architecture mobile (GEAM), Groupe international d'architecture prospective (GIAP) and the Communication Centre of Scientific Knowledge for Self-Reliance (CCSK). Series VII comprises Friedman's non-architectural artwork, such as films, general drawings and collages, as well as documentation of his apartment in Paris. Series VIII is a small compilation of papers documenting Friedman's career, including copies of articles about Friedman and his work, as well as biographical material and documentation of the archive. Miscellaneous professional and personal papers comprise Series IX. Included in this series are general correspondence, documentation of the work of colleagues, portraits of Friedman and his collaborators, and family photographs.
    Many of the dates used in this finding aid should be viewed as broad chronological guides rather than absolutes. Individual pieces of Yona Friedman's work can be very difficult to date precisely for several reasons: much of his work is not dated on the piece; Friedman's historic chronology of his work presented in various publications and interviews can be rather fluid; and ultimately, his intellectual and working methods are ahistoric and non-linear. A small number of core ideas find expression and elaboration in numerous interwoven offshoots that are repeatedly revisited.
    Titles of works are transcribed directly from the piece, if present, and otherwise are taken from Friedman's publications.


    The archive is arranged in nine series: Series I. Writings, circa 1957-2006; Series II. Manuals and other graphic works, 1973-2006; Series III. Design competition entries, 1959-2000; Series IV. Exhibitions, 1959-2004; Series V. Studies and visualizations for architectural and planning projects, 1958-2006; Series VI. Professional organizations, 1956-1997; Series VII. Artworks, 1960-2003; Series VIII. Documentation of career, 1958-2004; Series IX. Miscellaneous professional and personal papers, 1957-2002.
    Given Friedman's ideas and methodology, his work is not readily separated into discrete units in a linear structure and he certainly does not view it in that way. Therefore, the division of his papers into archival series is rather artificial and somewhat arbitrary, since many works might fall intellectually into several categories. Yet, in order to facilitate research access to the archive such a structure is needed. The arrangement of the archive presented here is roughly derived from Friedman's arrangement list "catalogue after categories," the structure of the authorized website, http://www.yonafriedman.nl, curated by Helene Fentener van Vlissingen, and discussion with Friedman. Friedman's original associative arrangement can be traced by the "boîte" numbers in each entry. A search using the "find" command with one of those entries will retrieve the other materials originally housed in the same folder or box (see Processing History note).

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Names

    Friedman, Yona

    Subjects - Topics

    Architecture and society
    Architecture, Modern -- 20th century
    Architects -- France
    City planning
    Visionary architecture

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Color slides
    Drawings (visual works)
    Gelatin silver negatives
    Gelatin silver prints
    Chromogenic color prints
    Color negatives
    Collages (visual works)


    Friedman, Yona
    Schaur, Eda, 1945-
    Charvein, Denise