Yona Friedman is one of the most interesting and important theorists and utopians of architecture of our time. Born in Budapest in 1923, he has lived in Paris for many years. Friedman's oeuvre comprises urban-planning models, theoretical writings, and animated films. His work has been prominently on view at a number of art biennials (Shanghai, Venice, and others) and at documenta 11, Kassel.

In 1958, Friedman published a manifesto, "L'Architecture Mobile", that must simultaneously be considered the founding document of "Groupe d'étude d'architecture mobile (GEAM)". During the same years, he developed important conceptions of city-spaces such as "La Ville Spatiale". To this day, these visionary mega-structures, overarching existing cities, whose inhabitants were to be enabled to flexibly shape their spatial and social worlds, have been much-discussed classics of avant-garde urban planning, inspiring generations of architects and urban planners. The ideas behind these manifestos were visionary and far ahead of their time; the point of departure for Yona Friedman's "Ville Spatiale" was his conviction that architecture's task was merely to offer inhabitants a framework, a structure that they would be called upon to implement according to their own ideas. Not unlike Constant, who during the same years, the mid-50s, developed the defining traits of his New Babylon, Friedman regarded the progressive automation of industrial labor and the concomitant rise of recreation as a decisive social change that would render traditional urban structures obsolete. An immobile and elaborate conventional architecture was to be replaced by flexible and mobile structures.

Over the past decades, his creative work has resulted in innumerable drawings, models, and structural investigations of his visionary ideas. Friedman has worked using very simple means; paper, wire, packaging materials are the primary materials that give structure to his collages and models. The guiding principle is that his ideas be easy to handle and enable creative application. For the Portikus, Friedman, in collaboration with students and alumni/ae of the Städelschule, is developing a multi-part spatial installation that draws upon earlier structural models from his oeuvre. There is "Lamellar Technology", a so-called "irregular structure," wave-like bands molded out of paper or other pliable materials that can serve as a sort of diaphanous roof. Also on view will be a wall work that can be related back to Friedman's contribution to the 2003 Venice biennial, "Rubbish is Beautiful", where styrofoam packaging elements were composed to form a large-scale wall relief. The erratic variety of their surfaces creates the impression that the visitor is facing a model elevation of a utopian city. In conjunction with the exhibition, we will screen a series of 13 animated films from 1960 based on African fairy-tales; they have recently been restored.

In cooperation with the Culture Board of the City of Frankfurt, the Portikus is showing an additional installation with "Space Chains" by Yona Friedman on the city's new studio boat. Docked on the river Main at the Ruderdorf (near Oberrad), it is a charming new site for art. Over the course of this summer, the Städelschule, the Frankfurt Kunstverein and the Museum für Moderne Kunst (MMK) will alternate in using this new venue to show art. From 2009 on, the Culture Board will invite international artists to live and work on the boat. The opening party will be on this boat in collaboration with Freitagsküche, Frankfurt and DJs Dennis Loesch, Michael Riedel (Frankfurt/Berlin) and Guy the Guy (Vienna).

This exhibition and the catalogue have been made possible by generous support from Hessische Kulturstiftung and Deutsche Bank Stiftung.

Curated by: Melanie Ohnemus
Photos: Wolfgang Günzel