Poster of Mobile Architecture

Yona Friedman (1923–) is no doubt a legendary figure in the architecture world. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that despite being over ninety years old, he is still full of energy and as active in the field of architecture and art as he has ever been; or because of his Paris apartment being full of models, sketches and all kinds of ‘to-be-developed’ readymade pieces. Perhaps his legendary status comes from his proposal of the ‘mobile architecture’ theory during the 1950s and his questioning of Le Corbusier’s assertion that residents should adapt to buildings, instead suggesting that architects must learn from residents, and that residents are the ones to determine architectural and urban planning.

Friedman’s “Mobile Architecture” theory had great influence on later experimental groups including Metabolism, Archigram, and Coop Himmelb(l)au. However, throughout his nearly 70-year-long career, Friedman has few architectural projects realized (only a temporary science museum in Indiaand a secondary school in France). Friedman’s line of thought has consistently distanced him from the mainstream architectural world. Such self-imposed distance has inevitably led to isolation, forcing him instinctively fight for survival: to him which is to invent, to create. Though the fact that few projects realized left him lots of regrets, it meanwhile wreathed him in mystery and made him an icon of post-war utopian architects.

Instead of the variability of architecture noumenon, Friedman’s central theory, “Mobile Architecture”, is to explore how to develop a framework of architecture that could respond to or contend with the varied social system.The theory echoes with the inhabitants’ self-consciousness and free-expression of their spatial needs, highlighting that the existence of a city is to meet human’s aspiration for changes.Hence, Yona is above all against the so-called privilege of an architect. To him, the architect is rather a technology provider and popularizer, a problem solver, sometimes a problem performer as well.

Yona Friedman

The exhibition is divided into two sections. The first charts the development of “Mobile Architecture” theory with a series of draft sketches, modelsand cartoons. The second explores improvisation as a possibility in architecture. Friedman regards improvisation as a law of nature, with which he first began experimenting in 1970 with his entry for the front of the Centre Georges Pompidou. His idea at the time was a façade-less, or rather infinite façade concept, which allows the museum to change its shape and appearance according to each exhibition. This exhibition is an improvisational live. Led by Friedman, the curatorial team will create a series of structures in the site, such as the “Sky City”, “Street Museum”, “Simple Science Museum” and “Crazy Grass”.

Friedman describes his unrealized projects as a parabola. His autonomy world ensconced between art and legend indicates a brand new way of life in civil society. To say so, Yona Friedman is absolutely a realist inside and out.

About the exhibition

Curator: Gong Yan

Duration: May 16, 2015 – Aug 16, 2015

Venue: 3F, Power Station of Art

Organizer: Power Station of Art, Consulat général de France (Shanghai)

Courtesy of the artist and Power Station of Art, for further information please visit

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