Talking about architecture and witnessing the rapidity of growth and magnitude of emerging cities in China (with high skyscrapers literally growing out of the earth like champignons in autumn), it felt very refreshing to see an exhibition in Shanghai’s Power Station of Art paying tribute to Yona Friedman (1923-), French-Hungarian icon of post-war utopian architects.
Friedman created over his 70-year-long career an immense theoretical corpus that influenced much of today’s superstar architectural groups such as Coop Himmelb(l)au or Archigram. He is known for his vocation as a “problem solver” and opposed himself to the so called “privileged” architects. He has tried until now, to build a theoretical framework that would allow to respond to a variation of social needs and systems. Friedman’s theory of “Mobile Architecture” in the 50s, to which the title of the exhibition in Shanghai refers to, focuses on the subjective viewpoint of the residents which is in contrast Le Corbusier’s concept of residents adapting to buildings.
As Yona Friedman’s approach is, for the most, focused on changing social values its inventiveness lies in a constant search and questioning of the status-quo. Despite the fact that most of his work has hardly been realized (expect a Museum of Simple Technology in India and a secondary school in France), the architect found himself in a perpetual cycle of creation and invention, by detaching himself from the necessity of actual production or realization of his concepts. Thus, he believed that this endless cycle should be generated by the need for innovation.
During the exhibition, which perfectly visualised his often deeply philosophical and anthropological thoughts through a simple yet well-presented scenography, as well as a video of an intriguing interview in Friedman’s Parisian apartment that he hasn’t left after since he moved in 1968, one particular quote cited by Friedman struck me: “I used to believe that life lies in innovation; but now I prefer to go with life lying in repetition and retrieving the truth that we rejected out of anxiety and panic, could we free ourselves more.”
I’ll leave you with that… as well as a small thought on the difference between Le Corbusier’s success to Friedman’s… tell me what you think about it if you are more familiar with their work, I’d like to know.
Curator: Gong Yan
Organized by Power Station of Art and the Consultat general de France, Shanghai.