Since the early 1950s, through his research, Yona Friedman has been questioning the relationship between architecture and other fields of human culture, such as the sciences (physical and biological), social organization (the economy, group structures) and the arts (self expression in all its forms). In 1958, in a context of unbridled urbanization and economic, social and cultural mutation, Friedman published L'Architecture Mobile (Mobile Architecture). The mobility in question is not that of the building but rather that of the user, to whom a new degree of liberty is given. Mobile architecture is, therefore, the “habitat chosen by the inhabitant” through “undetermined and indeterminate infrastructures.” Friedman preferred the concept of self-planning (Usine Dubonnet, 1975; Lycée Bergson, Angers, 1979) to the concept of self-construction: the user himself designs his built environment, the very basis for a liberating approach to architecture that is open and available to the interventions of each and every one. His Propositions Africaines (African proposals) advocate the combination of local construction techniques with a modern infrastructure that would eventually be implemented in developing countries in the 1970s. A manifesto and iconic project, the Ville Spatiale (Spatial City) will have to enable the creation of this new social space, this new harmony among men and women in their living environment.
After his studies in Budapest and then in Haifa, Yona Friedman (1923, Budapest) conducted his first experiment in housing designed by the inhabitant (Haifa, 1954). In 1956, at the 10th International Congress of Modern Architecture (CIAM) he showed his principles for modular and self-planned architecture, ensuring “social mobility.” In 1958, he settled in France and founded the Groupe d'Études d'Architecture Mobile (Mobile Architecture Research Group; 1958-62). In 1987, he built the Museum of Simple Technology (Madras, India) using the principles of self-construction. Internationally recognized (Retrospective exhibition at the NAI, Rotterdam, 1999; Documenta XI, 2002), today Yona Friedman is the subject of heightened interest on the part of the art world (2003 and 2009 Venice Biennales; Museum of Fine Arts and the CAPC, Bordeaux, 2008).