Just in case


The proposal for a Métropole Europe, which would transform a large part of Western Europe into the 'world's biggest non.city', was first presented by the visionary architect and philosopher Yona Friedman in 2010, and featured in his monograph ‘Architecture with the people, by the people, for the people’ in 2012, as one of his Feasible Utopias or Utopies Réalisables, doing away with the Pigs, and the abyss between rich and poor.

Born in Hungary in 1923, Yona Friedman (1923) studied at Budapest’s Institute of Technology, and fled the nazi-regime to end up in the city of Haifa, Israel, where he lived for about a decade, before moving permanently to Paris in 1957. His personal experiences as a homeless refugee -during the war, but also later in Israel – would influence his work fundamentally. He has taught at MIT, Princeton, Harvard and Columbia universities, and - although he worked for the United Nations and UNESCO, through the dissemination of self-building manuals in African countries, South America and India, and created groundbreaking buildings such as the Lycée Bergson in Angers, France, and the Museum of Simple Technology in Madras, in which the principles of self-construction from local materials like bamboo were applied. his work as an architect, urbanist and philosopher mainly spans urban models, theoretical texts, posters and animated films. His visionary, pioneering ideas -that were close to those of the Situationists- have been at the forefront for several generations of architects and urban planners, and have clearly influenced the likes of Arata Isozaki or Bernard Tschumi, to name only a few of the most important ones.

In the mobile city, buildings should:

  • 1. touch the ground over a minimum
  • 2. be capable of being dismantled and moved
  • 3. be alterable as required by the individual occupant

In 1956, he published his Manifeste de l'Architecture Mobile, an architecture that would be capable of understanding, serving and surviving an endlessly moving, unpredictable world, and where the architect would limit his intervention to the design of the essential – static – parts, the foundations and the basic structure, with the future users free to arrange all other elements. Planning rules could be created and recreated, according to the need of the inhabitants and the theory of “self-planning”. In the mobile city, buildings should: 1. touch the ground over a minimum; 2. be capable of being dismantled and moved; and 3. be alterable as required by the individual occupant.

Utopies Réalisables


His essays, which number almost thirty publications, express these theories in a sober and efficient language, while manuals illustrate them with pictograms. With time, they became the basic elements of a universally-aimed language simple. And despite the perennial utopian label, Friedman always tried to develop Utopies Réalisables or Feasible Utopias, which is also the title o the book that best represents his ethics and spirit. Métropole Europe was no different. The plan which was first presented in a series of posters in a solo show at the Kamel Mennour Gallery in Paris in 2010, but was largely based on the urban concepts and completely original approach he had already developed in his early years, such as La Ville Spatiale-The Spatial City the Urban Village, and in particular City - Continent, of which it was more or less an update.

a greater Paris, or a greater London is not the right way to a better future

Contrary to what is still generally accepted today City-Continent and Métropole Europe stated that a greater Paris, or a greater London was not the right way to a better future. Instead, Friedman pleaded for a network of large cities connected to each other by systems of high.speed transport, along the lines of the spatial city that was constructed on the principal of suspension, at ten or twenty metres from the ground. Between the nodes, the ground would thus remain free for agriculture and the preservation of historical or ecological sites.


Since all the elements needed -the cities and the fast train- were already there, the project was perfectly feasible, turning Paris into a suburb of London, and London into a suburb of Paris. The only thing necessary was the political will and courage on a European level to lower the prices and raise the frequency of trains, and a coordinating body representing the cities which would make up this 'non-megalopolis'. It would not just enable a more fluid mobility of citizens and a restructuring of the social fabric, but could also allow to link the rich and poor, or the two Europes that operate at different speeds: the Northern countries and what economists call the P.I.G.S., Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain - the countries that suffer the most of the current crisis. (mb)

max borka frank akino

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