Yona Friedman (1923-2020)

John Hill
21. February 2020
Yona Friedman (Photo: Screenshot from 2017 interview by Louisiana Museum of Modern Art)

Visionary French architect Yona Friedman, who was born in Budapest in 1923, has died at the age of 96, as announced on his Instagram account on February 21, 2020.

The Instagram post from earlier today says:

"After 96 years on this earth, Yona has moved up to build a Spatial City and install some Space Chains in the sky. The Fonds de Dotation Denise and Yona Friedman, which he founded last year, will continue his work. "

Fans of Friedman's work will understand the references to "Spatial City" and "Space Chains," though those not familiar might be perplexed. Friedman devoted much of his long career to imagining and portraying the seemingly impossible: elevated structures (Ville Spatiale) where people could live and work in self-built habitations. Those were born from more literally grounded Mobile Architecture, "a system of construction that allows the occupants to determine the design of their own dwellings."

Ideas of freedom permeated all of the constructions Friedman drew and, in a few cases, built. The latter tended to be temporary pavilions, such as the Summer House installed in Kensington Gardens in London in 2016 alongside BIG's Serpentine Pavilion.

Serpentine Summer House 2016 designed by Yona Friedman (Photo © Iwan Baan)

Friedman conveyed his theoretical ideas on architecture and planning through drawings but also writings and teaching. The Getty Research Institute's Yona Friedman Papers is perhaps the greatest assemblage of his output: 161 boxes, 15 flatfiles, and 5 boxed rolls of manuscripts, sketches and drawings. Online, the Fonds de Dotation Denise et Yona Friedman is the best resource for exploring the visionary work of Friedman over the course of more than five decades.

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