Architecture of survival

Design. Self-building. Resilience.

Alexia Schneider,

« Our current architecture violates common sense. » This was the observation made by Yona Friedman in 1978 in his book The Architecture of Survival, which still resonates with such accuracy today.

Book The architecture of survival, Yona Friedman
Book The architecture of survival, Yona Friedman

In this book 1, the architect asks himself the question of construction and habitat in the broad sense in « a world that is moving towards increasing poverty », this new poverty of the industrialized countries that he defines in the following way:  

We will call « new poor », this man who has only money and who does not have enough to get things (housing, food, etc.) in a satisfactory way according to the standards and conventions accepted by the time. The poverty of the new poor in the industrialized countries [...] comes - among other causes - from the fact that he spends most of his salary to pay for services that the peasant of the past had for free or that he did without most of the time (child care, repair services, washing, cleaning, etc.).

Yona Friedman then invites us to get back to basics and develops the idea of what he calls an « architecture of survival »:  

An architecture can be considered an architecture of survival if it does not make it difficult (or rather if it favors) the production of food, the collection of water, the climate protection, the protection of private and collective goods, the organization of social relations and the aesthetic satisfaction of everyone.

An architecture, after all, that is based on principles of resilience and self-sufficiency such as those of self-planning and urban agriculture. What if our habitats were designed to harvest rainwater, preserve our food and produce our food? What if this design was done by the inhabitants themselves?

In light of the current context where we are facing our depleting reserves of fossil fuels and raw materials, we are undeniably moving towards « this growing poverty ». Will we, citizens and planners, be able to adopt this « philosophy of poverty » (subtitle of Yona Friedman's book)? Or, better yet, adopt a « philosophy of sobriety », if we consider that sobriety is a « chosen poverty » before it is imposed on us. For it is not only a question of our commitment to counter the climate change that is underway, but also of our adaptation, our « survival », to this new context.

In short, it is worth reading and re-reading to develop a resilient habitat and lifestyle.