L’exposition mobile

Yona Friedman
21.04.10 → 22.07.03

Le Quadrilatère
Curators: Sylvie Boulanger, Keren Detton, Lucy Hofbauer
“L’Exposition Mobile” is a touring exhibition by Yona Friedman based on an exceptional collection of works held by the CNEAI = at the Frac Grand Large - Hauts-de-France in Dunkirk.

Quadrilateral, Center of Contemporary Art of Beauvais:

On the eve of a significant period of restructuring works on its building, the Beauvais Art Center opens its final artistic season and invites the public to numerous festive events: three exhibitions, performances, encounters, workshop visits, culminating in the launch of its art program in public space on the evening of the European Night of Museums.

Off-site – The Museum without buildings at Parc Dassault:

Yona Friedman’s emblematic project of these “achievable utopias,” the Museum without buildings, will be activated in two phases by Le Quadrilatère: firstly, in the very space of the exhibition. Composed of aluminum hoops of 130 cm in diameter and red hula hoops of 75 cm in diameter, the structure hosts the creations of visitors made within the framework of Ateliers sauvages. The Museum without buildings will continually transform throughout the exhibition’s duration according to contributions. On the occasion of the Night of Museums on May 14, 2022, a second Musée Sans Bâtiment (this time realized on a monumental scale) will be installed and inaugurated at Parc Marcel Dassault, a very popular public garden adjacent to the swimming pool and ice rink in Beauvais. It will also take the form of multiple giant and collaborative workshops.

The Mobile Exhibition: a collective project

“Today, we are building too much. The Earth is overbuilt, overplanned, overcultivated. This doesn’t mean that we don’t need architects, urban planners, or farmers, but we need to change the rules.” Yona Friedman

Dedicated to the artist, architect, and urban planner Yona Friedman (1923-2020), one year after his passing, this exhibition relies on an exceptional collection of works preserved by cneai = at the Frac Grand Large — Hauts-de-France in Dunkirk. This collection—comprising models, drawings, films, and editions—will be deployed, reconfigured, expanded, and appropriated by various distinctive locations in the Hauts-de-France region covering over 5,000 m2. The exhibition will extend into their surroundings, notably infiltrating public spaces and engaging actors from associative, cultural, educational, and social spheres. These updates will turn “The Mobile Exhibition” into a melting pot of living stories where various forms of learning, experimentation, and improvisation on cohabitation will unfold. It aims not only to capture the thinker that Yona Friedman was but also to create proximity with the residents, offering them the opportunity to engage with his ideas by finding their own means of understanding and action.

Curated by: Sylvie Boulanger, Keren Detton, Lucy Hofbauer
With the participation of: Thibault Fournaise, Jérôme Garnier, Sandrine Joly, Sébastien Krajco, Sandrine Labar, Nathalie Lacroix, Christophe Le Guennec, Léonie Macquet, Pascal Neveux, Nicolas Nief, Maria Rabbé…
Special thanks to Marianne Friedman-Polonsky.

The exhibition

A life and a work in motion
Survival architecture provides Yona Friedman with material for reflection on our fundamental needs in an ecosystem facing dwindling resources. Born in 1923 in Hungary, he began studying architecture in Budapest, interrupted by the Second World War. Seeking refuge in Romania, he experienced camps before settling in an Israeli kibbutz and returning to architecture. There, he developed an original approach to housing based on user experience. In 1957, he formed the Mobile Architecture Study Group (GEAM) and advocated for the use of flexible structures made of prefabricated elements. His ideas captured the attention of figures like Le Corbusier and Jean Prouvé, who invited him to live in France. Subsequently, he continued disseminating his ideas in prestigious American and European universities and through over 500 articles and publications.

“The Mobile Exhibition,” architecture, and communal living
The title of this exhibition pays homage to his major work L’Architecture mobile (1958), where Yona Friedman explores his ideas of the Spatial City. He envisions modular habitats that evolve according to changing needs over time. Because “human society cannot be planned,” he believes it’s appropriate to allow inhabitants the freedom to modify their habitat. These tall constructions promote urban agriculture, consider demographic shifts, and limited resources. These ideas materialize through a multitude of original models and drawings, revealing a creative process based on economy, recycling, and improvisation.

The power of images and symbols
A man of transmission and dialogue, pragmatic rather than utopian, Yona Friedman developed a universal language of easily recognizable pictograms. His comic strips, or “manuals”, on housing, health, food, the urban environment and social structures were widely distributed as part of his missions for UNESCO in the 1970s. They remain a powerful vehicle for the transmission of his humanist and positive ideas.

The form of the Slide-Show, both playful and dynamic, allows us to grasp complex systems of supply, networks and flows, and to highlight the difficulties of communication between humans, using a simple, direct line. On the floor are pictograms taken from his Dictionary (to be completed by the reader). Yona Friedman chooses themes (“communication”, “group”, “improvisation”…) to which he associates word-images by affinity. But when asked to illustrate “freedom”, he replies: “Freedom in itself doesn’t mean anything: you can’t draw it. You can be free to… move… speak… eat or work, and that I can draw.”

“L’Exposition Mobile” invites visitors to give new meaning to words, to put them in relation and in common. Yona Friedman is also the author of a dreamlike, fantastical universe, from which the design of The Unicorn springs. He draws on African, Indian and Amerindian tales and symbols, as well as his own personal mythologies. A poetic way of sharing his dreams.

The works of art

At the Frac Grand Large, models, drawings and collages
of the Ville-Spatiale, manuals, the Slide-Show Architecture, two building-scale drawings (Les Pictogrammes and La Licorne) and the documentary “Yona Friedman: un habitant indiscipliné” (dvd, Paris: La Huit Production/CNEAI =, 2017).

When I say a word, I don’t know what the other person understands. When I show a picture, they understand the same thing. “

These words by Yona Friedman perfectly sum up one of his major productions, the invention of a new form of language. In 1974, Yona Friedman began the project of a lifetime: the creation and publication of a new type of writing, in pictograms, with the ultimate aim of creating a universal system of communication.

This new vocabulary, enriched on an ongoing basis, would become the subject of Manuals, veritable dictionaries distributed from the 1970s onwards by UNESCO, where Yona Friedman was then in charge of information. Reminiscent in form of the hieroglyphics of Egyptian and pre-Columbian civilizations, the corpus created by Yona Friedman is based on the drawing and representation of concrete actions.

In this way, each concept immediately takes on a form that everyone can recognize, far from the abstraction of today’s various languages, of which the artist is particularly wary. Ultimately, Yona Friedman’s pictograms are a melting pot in which art and communication are closely intertwined. Each idea becomes an artistic expression in its own right, whose ingenious simplicity can be appropriated by anyone.

With this utopia of language, Yona Friedman seeks above all to recreate links and a new form of exchange, all with the aim of achieving the fundamental right he wanted to see added to the list of human rights: the right to understand.

The Unicorn
La Licorne is a monumental work designed by urban planner, architect and artist Yona Friedman.

In addition to the numerous drawings initiated in the 1960s, which dealt with urban planning and the invention of a new language, Yona Friedman also began to construct new myths made of colored paper, cut and assembled. Initially conceived to decorate the office of his Parisian apartment, this paper world was to find its way into the artist’s successive homes, eventually taking pride of place and becoming a major work of art.

The myth produced by Yona Friedman (inspired by The Tales of the Thousand and One Nights and traditional African fables, but also by Indian painting) proposes a paradisiacal vision of the world, nourished by his theories on how to better inhabit our planet.

The unicorn is a recurring figure in this universe. This legendary animal, present in many European, Oriental and Asian myths, embodies two of Friedman’s most important values: freedom and happiness.

From the 1990s onwards, unicorns became the artist’s alter-ego, multiplying in number and finally becoming monumental, as in the case of Licorne Eiffel, created in 2009 on Vassivière Island, and of the same dimensions as the Eiffel Tower. The version of La Licorne presented today in Halle AP2 is adapted to the gigantic dimensions of this symbol of Dunkirk’s heritage. Created using spray paint, the proportions of this drawing invite us to get up high and see it in its entirety.

“L’Exposition Mobile” on tour

The exhibition will also be presented at :

  • Idem + Arts in MAUBEUGE (24/09 - 28/11/2021)
  • Quadrilatère in BEAUVAIS (12/03 - 03/06/2022)
  • at Frac Picardie in AMIENS (Chapter 1: 04/17-03/10/2021
    Chapter 2: 05/02-24/04/2022)

Each venue will interpret the core of cneai works in its own way, combining them with film programs, site-specific works and invitations to contemporary artists.

All partner venues are committed to a process of transmission: visits, lectures, workshops and participatory projects. Special links will be forged with the region’s art and architecture schools.

“L’Exposition Mobile” will also be on display in public spaces, with the Musée Sans Bâtiment in Maubeuge and Beauvais.
The Musée Sans Bâtiment is a museum without doors, walls or roofs, open to all kinds of exhibitions, to local residents, public debates, social customs, economies and ecologies. This structure, imagined by Yona Friedman in the 1960s, cancels out the distinction between container and content, between works of art and architecture. Its aim is to stimulate and provoke ideas and initiatives. It’s a call to do things yourself, without the need for outside expertise.

As part of the project, the partner sites will contribute to new productions:

  • A publication based on the “Musée sans bâtiment” and its tour of the Hauts-de-France region
  • The publication of a new Slide Show by Yona Friedman, with a new musical creation commissioned from artists
  • And a seminar on “Play and architecture at play” in the work of Yona Friedman (date to be confirmed).

Biography of Yona Friedman

Yona Friedman was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1923. After studying in Budapest and Haifa, he began his career in Israel, where he lived and worked from the second half of the 1940s to the end of the 1950s. It was during this period that he began to take an interest in social housing and to develop the concepts of “mobile architecture” and “spatial city”. In 1956, he took part in the 10th International Congress of Modern Architecture (CIAM) in Dubrovnik, devoted to industrialized architecture. Here, he presented his principles of “mobile architecture” for the first time.

After moving to Paris in 1958, Yona Friedman began to publish his ideas and present them to a wider public through lectures and publications, lectures at American and European universities, and exhibitions of drawings and models. During his career, he has taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Royal Academy of Fine Art in The Hague, and the universities of Cambridge, Harvard, California, Michigan and Princeton. In 1958, Yona Friedman founded the Groupe d’étude d’architecture mobile (GEAM), whose members included Frei Otto and Werner Ruhnau. In 1965, he co-founded the Groupe International d’Architecture Prospective (GIAP), with Walter Jonas, Paul Maymont, Georges Patrix, Michel Ragon, Ionel Schein, Nicolas Schöffer and Manfredi Nicoletti. In 1968, he published his most famous work, Pour une architecture scientifique, written in reaction to Le Corbusier’s manifesto Vers une architecture (1932).

From 1980 onwards, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi supported his work in India. He published over a hundred manuals on housing, health, food and how people could take charge of their own living conditions. These manuals are distributed in India and other countries, and translated into some thirty languages. Yona Friedman also works for the United Nations (UNESCO), in the fields of education, science, political economy and culture. He published reports such as “No Cost Housing” and “Survival Techniques” (1977). His work, which extends beyond architecture and urban planning into all fields of autonomous knowledge, seeks to clarify the major political and scientific issues involved in “inhabiting the earth” responsibly.

In the early 1980s, he founded the Communication Centre of Scientific Knowledge for Self-Reliance, which reports to the United Nations University in Paris, with its main hub of activity in Madras (Chennai). His cooperation with these institutions continues into the 21st century.

Yona Friedman has completed numerous projects worldwide, including in Tunis, Paris, Venice, London, Brussels, Abidjan, Amsterdam, Warsaw, Gibraltar, Shanghai, New York, Los Angeles, Nice, Osaka, Berlin, Madrid, Bonn, Stuttgart, The Hague, Vancouver, Barcelona, Angers, Strasbourg, Tokyo, Chennai (Madras), Frankfurt, New Dehli, Budapest, Tel Aviv, ‘Grand Paris’, Ottawa, Nagasaki, Rotterdam, Milan, Yokohama, Munich, Chicago, Kitakyushu, Vienna, Florence, Boulogne, Zurich, Rovereto, Seville, Lyon, Chatou, Bordeaux, Como, Cordoba, Ljubljana, Villeurbanne, Villacoublay, Brescia, Léon, Brégence, Lisbon, Middelbourg and Istanbul.

His projects have been exhibited and included in the collections of museums such as the Moma (New York), Musée d’art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Centre Pompidou (Paris), Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine (Paris), Kunsthaus Bregenz, cneai = (Chatou), Serpentine Gallery (London), Vleeshal de Middelburg, Musac de Léon, Hyde Park Art Centre (Chicago), Espace de l’Art Concret (Mouans-Sartoux), Getty Foundation (Los Angeles), CAC de Vassivière, CAPC de Bordeaux, Drawings Center (New York), Musée d’art contemporain de Lyon, Apple Art Center (Amsterdam), Cabaret Voltaire (Zurich), Museum of Contemporary Art (Chicago), Power Station of Art (Shanghai), Netherlands Architecture Institute (Rotterdam). He has participated in the Venice Biennale (2001, 2003, 2005, 2009), the Yokohama Triennial (2001), Documenta XI (Kassel), the Shanghai Biennale (2002), the Istanbul Biennale (2012), the Lisbon Architecture Triennial (2011), the Valencia Biennale (2003), and the Lyon Biennale (2011). In 2008, the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles acquired Yona Friedman’s archives. In 2013, the artist made an exceptional donation to the Cnap: the decor of his Paris apartment on boulevard Garibaldi. This “total work of art” joins a collection of over 260 works.

{Le Quadrilatère, Beauvais Art Center
22 rue Saint-Pierre
60000 Beauvais}

{Frac Grand Large} {Idem + Arts} {Le Quadrilatère} {Frac Picardie} {Fonds de dotation Denise et Yona Friedman} {Fondation RAJA}

{Le Quadrilatère}