Avi Friedman

Academic title(s): 

Ph.D. Professor of Architecture

Biographical Sketch

Avi Friedman began his studies at the Politecnico di Milano in Italy, received his Bachelor of Architecture from the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology in 1980 (first in class/cum laude), his Master of Architecture from McGill University and his Doctorate in 1987 from University of Montréal. In 1988 he co-founded the Affordable Homes Program at the McGill School of Architecture, where he is a Professor. He is also an Honorary Professor in Lancaster University in the U.K.

Dr. Friedman’s research interests focus on factors which influence the design and implementation of affordable and sustainable building practices at the unit and community levels, including market acceptance, construction, and resource efficiency. He is the recipient of the Progressive Architecture Research Award, the J.-Armand- Bombardier Prize for T echnological Innovation, and the Manning Innovation Award of Distinction.

Avi Friedman has published extensively in both academic and trade publications. He has authored 14 books and peer-reviewed articles on subjects ranging from prefabrication and construction technology to suburban planning and space management, for academic journals. He has been invited to address international meetings in most of which he was a keynote speaker. Dr. Friedman is a member of the editorial board of architectural journals and authored research monographs and articles in trade publications in the US and Canada. From the year 2000 to 2008 he wrote a bi-monthly syndicated column for the Canwest chain of daily newspapers with a readership of over 1 million.

Avi Friedman has designed three housing prototypes which were built as full-scale demonstration projects and were then constructed by homebuilders around the world. The Grow Home (co- designed with Witold Rybczynski), a narrow-front rowhouse, received immense media attention and has since been built in numerous communities across North America and Europe. The Next Home, also the subject of much positive media scrutiny, was incorporated into the design of communities in Canada and the U.K. La Casa a la Carta, presented in Mexico, was designed specifically for the developing world.

Dr. Friedman’s design work and projects have been cited in many books and have been covered extensively: on TV shows such as Good Morning America, Dream Builders and Stewart Brand’s How Buildings Learn (British Broadcasting Corporation), in magazines such as Popular Science, Architecture and Home, and in newspapers including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Examiner. Avi Friedman has been invited to speak on over 200 occasions at meetings of government officials, development authorities, university professors and students, homebuilders, architects and planners in locations as diverse as Dalian, Guadalajara, Prague, Las Vegas, Berlin and Haifa. He has received awards for his design and teaching, including the American Institute of Architects Education Honors, the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture Collaborative Practice Award, and the prestigious Creative Achievement Award. In 1999 he received the World Habitat Award.

Avi Friedman is the President of Avi Friedman Consultants, Inc., a design firm with a focus on affordable and sustainable residential environments. Since 1981, he has designed single-family dwellings, affordable and sustainable communities, undertook urban renewal of towns, master planning of cities, conversion of industrial buildings into residences, and design of care facilities. His list of clients includes governments, cities and private sector enterprises.

Dr. Friedman served as a member of many boards and committees in government and trade, including the National Advisory Council on Energy Efficiency, and the National Housing Research Committee of Canada. He has also served on the juries of many design competitions.

In the year 2000 the international design magazine Wallpaper included Avi Friedman in its list of 10 people “most likely to change the way we live,” along with Ingvar Kamprad, founder of IKEA, and Sven Mattison, inventor of the Bluetooth computer chip. In the year 2004 he was referred to by Robert Scally, host of the television series The Innovators, as “the most influential housing innovator in the world.”

Avi Friedman lives in Montréal with his wife, Sorel Friedman, Ph.D., and his children, Paloma and Ben. 

Contact Information
Email address: 
avi.friedman [at] mcgill.ca
Area of expertise: 

Housing Development, Affordable Housing, Sustainable (green) Developments, Montreal's Urban Development

School of Architecture
Media guide subjects: 
Language(s) spoken: 
Selected publications: 

Friedman, A., The Grow Home, McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montréal, 2001 (208 pp.).

In The Grow Home, Avi Friedman recounts the genesis and development of this innovative project. Like the auto industry’s approach to the economy car, Friedman’s Grow Home gives people what they need in a house at an affordable price - a quality product that allows both the perimeter and interior of a house to be expanded and changed to fit the space needs and budget of its owners. Frills are extra.

McGill-Queen’s University Press, Spring 2001 Catalogue

Friedman, A., et al., Planning the New Suburbia; Flexibility by Design, UBC Press, Vancouver, 2001 (224 pp.).

Avi Friedman surveys the evolution of urban planning, the history of “ideal” communities, the development of North American suburbs, and the theory behind flexible suburban design. Three case studies offer practical examples of his approach, and all are generously illustrated with drawings, plans, and photographs to demonstrate Friedman’s ideas in action. Rather than dismissing a suburb as an unattractive, impersonal sprawl, Friedman shows how they can be modified into affordable, sustainable, and adaptable communities.

UBC Press Fall-Winter 2001 Catalogue

Friedman, A., Krawitz, D., Peeking Through The Keyhole; the Evolution of the North American Home, McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montréal, 2002 (212 pp.).

In Peeking Through the Keyhole, the authors guide the reader through trends and changes that have influenced design and construction over the last fifty years and describe their impact on home life. The ideological spine - the thesis - of the book is that the home is no longer a product of pure design ideas but rather a response to many factors and forces beyond the control of designers, builders, and users.

From a book Proposal to McGill-Queen’s

Friedman, A., The Adaptable House; Designing Homes for Change; McGraw-Hill, New York, 2002 (271 pp.).

The Adaptable House provides specific design approaches and techniques that facilitate flexible design - both on the inside and out. These principles make it simple to alter a dwelling’s layout, demolish partitions or build new ones, upgrade heating systems, and change the locations of staircases.

The Adaptable House is divided into three sections: the first sets the stage for adaptability, the second outlines relevant design principles, and the last shows their actual application in a variety of projects with detailed coverage of interior layouts and room configurations, exterior elements such as roofs and facades, new building materials and methods, easy add-ons and remodels, and single-family and multiple dwelling houses.

From McGraw-Hill Catalogue

Friedman, A., Room for Thought: Rethinking Home and Community Design, Penguin Canada, Toronto, 2005 (238 pp.).

The book is a collection of essays on home design and neighbourhood planning. Each essay explores and traces historical roots and casts a new light for their better understanding. The essays have been assembled in four parts. The first touches on domestic issues and centres on the home. Next, the neighbourhood and the city are visited and described. The technical working of homes are looked at next, and the author’s personal endeavours as an architect, homeowner and parent conclude the collection.

Friedman, A., Homes Within Reach: A Guide to the Planning, Design and Construction of Affordable Homes and Communities, John Wiley & Sons Inc., New Jersey, 2005 (279 pp.).

The book is a step-by-step guide to the various phases of community and home design. Following an introductory chapter that outlines fundamental definitions and principles, the book deals with site selection, forms and prototypes of dwellings, their interior design and construction. Other chapters tackle lot configuration, circulation and infrastructure, open spaces and infill projects. The final chapter describes and illustrates 5 projects where a range of aspects have been discussed and analyzed. The book contains over 200 images and illustrations as well as guides to developers, designers and planners of affordable housing.

Friedman, A., Sustainable Residential Development: Planning and Design Principles of Homes and Communities, McGraw Hill, NY, 2007 (288 pp.).

Global warming, depletion of non-renewable resources, and urban sprawl have become global challenges. Decades of inconsiderate planning and poor building practices have done little to reverse course in the built residential environment. Designing to sustain present needs, while considering the needs of future generations is the thrust of this book, which offers historical roots, principles and projects that demonstrate them. The scope of sustainability encompasses conceptions, processes and, once built, the life cycle of communities and homes. Each chapter deals with a stage, from selecting a site while respecting its natural conditions, siting a development, planning for a density community, designing “green” homes, refitting neighbourhoods and dwellings when they age, and finally implementing it all.

Friedman, A., A Place in Mind: The Search for Authenticity. Véhicule Press, Montreal, 2010 (198 pp.). (Canadian Edition)

A Place in Mind is the result of Avi Friedman’s worldwide quest for successful environments where people congregate and feel comfortable. Whether he writes of the conviviality of a teahouse in Istanbul; the public art of Nunavut’s capital, Iqaluit; the serenity of Assisi; the crowded streets of Hong Kong, the squatter settlements of Tijuana, or the architectural harmony of neighbourhoods in London and Amsterdam, Avi conveys his excitement at discovering people-friendly places.

Friedman, A. The Nature of Place: A Search for Authenticity. Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2011 (191 pp.).

(Edited and illustrated world edition of A Place in Mind.)

Friedman, A., Narrow Houses: New Directions in Efficient Design, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2010 (240 pp.).

Narrow Houses presents a thorough overview of the practical considerations of designing a narrow-front home, including siting, floor arrangements, footprint, and interior and exterior finishing. The book documents twenty- eight innovative examples of narrow houses from around the world, designed by today’s foremost architects. Project data, including floor plans and extensive interior and exterior photography demonstrate the inherent flexibility of this housing model and the many possibilities for adapting these homes to the constraints of site, climate, budget, family size, and other needs.

Friedman, A., Decision Making for Flexibility in Housing, The Urban International Press, Gateshead, U.K., 2011 (136 pp.).

In the book, award-winning architect and professor Avi Friedman offers an approach to decision-making for flexibility in residential design. The author guides the reader through a series of steps whose outcome helps identify users’ needs, to which architects and builders can fit a proper

level of flexibility. The book is illustrated by case studies which apply those methods to “real world” residential projects.

Friedman, A., Town and Terraced Housing. Routledge, London, UK, 2011 (262 pp.).

Friedman uses a systematic approach to cover the many facets of townhouses from interior design and construction methods, to urban planning issues like adjusting to the site’s natural conditions, street configurations and open spaces. This approach creates a book which will be a valuable resource for those involved in the planning, design and creation of terraces and townhouses. Over 150 detailed diagrams and plans, and 80 photos, illustrate the essential elements of this style of housing. In the final chapter, lessons learned throughout the book are drawn together in ten wideranging case study projects, showing how the various aspects can be put into practice.

Friedman, A., Fundamentals of Sustainable Dwellings. Island Press, Washington, DC 2012 (255 pp.)

Fundamentals of Sustainable Dwellings is a practical guide for every professional in the burgeoning field of residential green building. Friedman presents a concise overview of green building principles and examines critical aspects of green home construction, from siting to waste management options, and shows how they have been applied in contemporary projects.

Friedman, A., Inspired Houses: Architecture for Changing Times, Images Publishing, Victoria, Australia, 2013 (208 pp.).

This book is about architectural challenges, solutions and their implementation by way of invention and innovation. Each chapter comprises an illustrated essay and is accompanied by a selection of award-winning homes designed by some of the leading international architects around today. Each project features lavish full-colour photography, detailed floor plans and informative descriptions of each project and the motivation behind the design.

Friedman, A., Innovative Houses: Concepts for Sustainable Living, Laurence King Publishing, London, UK, 2013 (256 pp.).

This book examines the latest residential design trends that have arisen in response to these challenges. Divided into four broad areas, tightly focused thematic chapters look at twenty topics such as live/work; adaptable housing; prefabrication; water efficiency; green roofs; and innovative landscaping. Each chapter includes an overview that lays out principles, methods and practices, and a close look houses that embrace these.

Friedman, A., Planning Small and Mid-Sized Towns: Designing and Retrofitting for Sustainability, Routledge, New York, NY, 2014 (225 pp.).

Small and mid-sized suburban towns house two-thirds of the world’s population and current modes of planning for these municipalities are facing challenges of both philosophy and form. Common approaches that have prevailed in past decades no longer sustain new demands and require innovative thinking. Rather than dismissing small and mid-sized towns as unattractive suburban sprawl, Planning Small and Mid-Sized Towns offers ideas and methods on how small isolated and edge towns can be designed and retooled into sustainable, affordable, and adaptable communities.

Friedman, A., Fundamentals of Sustainable Neighbourhoods, Springer International Publishing, Switzerland, 2015 (178 pp.).

This book introduces architects, engineers, builders, and urban planners to a range of design principles of sustainable com munities and illustrates them with outstanding case studies. Drawing on the author’s experience as well as local and international case studies, Fundamentals of Sustainable Neighbourhoods presents planning concepts that minimize developments’ carbon footprint through compact communities, adaptable and expandable dwellings, adaptable landscapes, and smaller-sized yet quality-designed housing.

Friedman, A., Sustainable: Houses with Small Footprints. Rizzoli, New York, 2015 (336 pp.).

Sustainable: Houses with Small Footprints argues that we can indeed detach our dwellings from a dependence on many external systems and resources and adopt other building practices. What is known as living off the grid is possible, and Sustainable presents forty-five houses that demonstrate how architects use sustainable design concepts around the world. Among the examples presented here are buildings that minimize their physical footprint through placement above ground; houses where earth constitutes the chief building material and houses incorporating walls with plant material in the building’s interior (also known as “living walls”); designs that increase natural light and avoid artificial means of illumination; dwellings that have been designed to let occupants grow their food (“indoor farming”); homes that allow their inhabitants to harvest and recycle water; and earth-sheltered homes.