Fonds Yona Friedman

A collection of models, collages, drawings, archives and a work to be activated - Musée sans bâtiment - has been donated and now forms the Yona Friedman collection, held at cneai = and on deposit at Frac Grand Large in Dunkirk. This collection is regularly activated and loaned to museums for exhibitions, including the Frac Grand Large, the MAXXI in Rome, the Power Station of Art in Shanghai, the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine in Paris, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and the Tamayo Museum of Contemporary Art in Mexico City.

The Yona Friedman collection is held at the cneai = and at Frac Grand Large.

Collaboration with Yona Friedman has resulted in the production of 1:1 scale models - Suspended Space City (2007), Iconostasis, Street Museum (2012), Möbianne (2013), Furniture + (2017), Buildingless Museum (2011-… ) - and exhibitions at cneai =, as well as in Paris -Improvisations (Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris, 2009), Utopies réalisables (École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Paris-La Villette, 2014) -, Berlin - Handbuch (Motto and Galerie Chert, 2012) - and São Paulo - Dicionário (Oficina Cultural Oswald de Andrade, 2014).

Yona Friedman is a major figure in humanism and self-planning, reinventing city architecture with visionary radicalism from the 1950s onwards. Hungarian by birth and French by birth, Friedman’s lifelong vision was to enable urban dwellers to participate in the construction and organization of their own homes.

The personal arrangement of space never left the mind of the artist whose first creations were born during the Second World War, when he was housed in a Romanian refugee camp. Fleeing from the Hungarian Gestapo, which hunted him down for his resistance activities under the pseudonym “Yona”, Janos Antal Friedman developed removable screens to temporarily divide interiors. The pioneering industrial prefabrication techniques of architect Konrad Wachsmann, which he discovered while studying in Israel after the war, were to form the basis of his thinking on mobile architecture. In response to the housing crisis affecting fast-growing European capitals, he imagined revolutionary creations in terms of both citizen involvement and innovative understanding of communal space. Among his “feasible utopias”, the “Spatial City” stands out as an example of this commitment, developed over the course of the 60s. Composed of structures raised above cities and rivers, linked by a variable mesh that lets the sky appear, the city offers infinite variations to users as their needs evolve. This work influenced Jean Prouvé and Le Corbusier, whose work can be seen in the Swiss Foundation.

During the 1970s, new printed works paved the way for international collaborations. His African Propositions, which combine local building techniques with modern infrastructure, are adopted by developing countries. (At the same time, his passion for communication and transmission led him to develop a form of pictorial language with universal appeal. For UNESCO, he created booklets proposing reflections on the notions of group, improvisation, habitat and philosophy, distributed to a variety of countries. The cultures of the native populations he discovers in the course of this work have a lasting influence on his imagination.

In order to give a true account of his work, but also to render his thoughts as faithfully and joyfully as possible, the exhibition will activate visitor participation to the maximum. The aim is to create a genuine space for collaboration, improvisation, self-expression and encounters between visitors to the Cité. In so doing, it will realize the collaborative utopia for which the architect has worked all his life.