Yona Friedman

Biography of Yona Friedman

With his persevering social commitment, Yona Friedman revolutionized post World War II architecture in Europe. The Hungarian-born French architect born in 1923 rose to fame in the 1950s and early 60s. After having spent some time in Israel during the war, Friedman settled permanently in Paris. It was at this point that as a response to the destruction, unsettlement, and general housing crisis caused by the war, Friedman set out the principles for Mobile Architecture for which he is best known. This was a revolutionary concept which promoted a trial and error approach in architectural planning, accessible to all, enabling ordinary people to live in housing that corresponded to their needs effectively.


As a politically committed and socially engaged architect, art was not a goal for Yona Friedman, let alone an aesthetic experience—yet with his boundless imagination, it seemed to generate naturally alongside his work. To visualize his projects, Friedman more or less subconsciously found himself creating and collecting all sorts of drawings, cartoons of mythical figures, quirky objects from around the world, and models from odd materials. These objects came together in his various apartments throughout his life time, creating his own worlds—his own cabinets of curiosities.


Yona Friedman’s collections have been dissected, and bound into editions of Livres d’Artistes. These editions, along the likes of 1001 nuits + 1 jour, are comprised of detachable imagery that invite viewers to create their own stories, and their own worlds with the objects of Friedman’s fascination. His architectural work, consisting essentially of propositions for mega-structures, and installations that toy with scale and materiality have earned him the Architecture Award of the Berlin Academy, and the Grand Prize for design of the Prime Minister of Japan. He has contributed largely to the architectural plans of the College Bergson in Angers, France as well as those for the Museum for Simple Technology in Madras India. For the latter, Friedman received the Scroll of Honor for Habitat from the United Nations. Friedman has also participated in the Venice Biennale in 2003, 2005, and 2009, as well as the Shanghai Biennale in 2004. In 2016, Friedman was commissioned by Frieze to create a project for the Serpentine Gallery in London. This project­­–Summer House, a modular megastructure will be on show throughout the summer until the end of the Frieze art fair in October 2016. 

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