Emerging Images for the Future of Ukraine
Sveriges Arkitekter offers support to architects and planners in Ukraine through the project Future Pictures for Ukraine.
At the first seminar about the future images for Ukraine the urbanist Alexander Schevchenko from the NGO Restart Ukraine described the situation for architecture and urban design in Ukraine in medical terms as a trauma of the built environment. He described in some details the physiognomy of this trauma with the example of Chernihiv in the north where Russia passed by on the way to Kyiv. In this city about 70% of the original population of about 250.000 people have now left and a large portion of the houses have been destructed including 38 significant cultural heritage sites.
The bombed residences of the Soviet housing district in North Saltivka, a suburb to Kharkiv, is another example of the trauma but also how images of the destructed architecture is used to represent the atrocities of the Russian bombings.
The destruction by Russian missiles and attacks on the ground transforms the built environment into an uninhabitable rubble, but it also transforms the public perception of architecture as a symbol of stability into a symbol of fragility. When the attacks by Russia started many people would not leave their homes until it was directly hit by a bomb, as if their home was safe from the bombings. Now the fragility and weakness of architecture as protection against the acts of war is part of the public awareness. The top priority for urban reconstruction is to make it safe against bombings with bombshelters accessible everywhere.
These examples demonstrate the deep meaning of architecture as protection against threats and attacks. The loss of this trust in architecture is also an aspect of the trauma that need to be addressed.
See the lectures afterwards – seminar 1
Rebuild in democratic and sustainable ways
In the national recovery plan presented by the government of Ukraine in July 2022 it is stated that Ukraine will “build back better” and align with the European values of democracy and sustainability. In their reactions to this situation architects in Ukraine combine technical specificity with different modes of imaginary reflective thinking to project possibilities to rebuild in democratic and sustainable ways.
This can be exemplified with the practice RP Project of Kostantyn Rusiev in Kharkiv. He and his colleague has made a proposal for fast reconstruction of destructed apartment buildings in North Saltivka with 3D-printed structures. It demonstrates how the destruction triggers imaginative reactions by creative architects to build new homes, to document and recreate the lost buildings and align them with the new ideals of democracy and sustainability.
Other architects also engage in pragmatic actions to alleviate the immediate needs of the dislocated population as in the case of the developer architect Slava Balbek. In Bucha and other similar small towns he build temporary houses with a sustainable design that considers both social needs and the ecological impact of the construction. Practices like these reflect critically the situation and guide the development and transformation of the practice and also the education of the next generation of architects that will work on the rebuilding of Ukraine.
Discussion of the transformation
Seminar 3 Transformation for Ukraine was dedicated to the discussion of the transformation of the role of architects and the practice of architecture in Ukraine caused by the Russian aggression. It opened for a critical reflection on the war trauma and how it transforms architecture and urbanism in Ukraine, both as objects and as a responsibility for the practice of architects.
What are the concerns of architects, the spatial, material, social and aesthetic ideas for the cities, that guide architectural imagination in Ukraine during the war? What do these practices tell us about the direction of the future architecture and urbanism in Ukraine?
The main topics that the participants engaged in during seminar and workshop 3 were (1) the Identity, (2) the Policy, (3) Strategies for Knowledge exchange, (4) Education of mayors, and (5) the different Platforms that could be useful to enable collaboration between sectors and levels of decision to frame the coordination of the rebuilding of Ukraine following the policy of Build Back Better. The focus of the discussion in the workshop after the seminar was on the concept of the Platform for collaboration.
A major strategic question was also who is doing these things and who should be responsible, and particularly: what is the responsibility of architects as individuals, as companies and as professional organizations.
Two major aspects were represented in the program for the seminar:
Transformation of the understanding of architecture from Soviet to Europe or in between as a critical Post-Soviet practice not only of material objects but also subjective memories and experiences.
See the lectures afterwards – seminar 3
Frame of reference for the debate
Transformation of the role of the architect from state to regional and local levels of engagement and from a position as a public to a private actor.
The questions resulting from this penetration of the Ukrainian context motivates a deeper investigation of the differences between the legislative system for planning and architecture in Ukraine and other European countries. What is the responsibility of the state and what can or should be referred to regional and local levels? The regional reform requires a backup up of strategic planning competency on the local level. A reform of the planning system is being debated in the government.
Many of the Ukrainian actors like NSAU, Restart Ukraine and Ro3kvit state the significance of knowledge sharing. But several of the professional initiatives like the Open institute of Kharkiv mainly focus on the dialogue with other experts, even though with an impressively broad scope. There is also a need for a forum for the broad discussion on rebuilding with financial and political actors and the public. Here the model of Sweden can be productive frame of reference for the debate.
Seminar 4 about Sustainability for Ukraine aims at reflecting significant strategic issues for the rebuilding of Ukraine through design of both processes, solutions and institutions. The starting point is the work in Ukraine and Sweden on sustainable urban development, Agenda 2030 and how the shared experience on methods can benefit the integration of social and ecological sustainability, with digital tools and democratic decision making. This is based on a comparison of cases from Ukraine such as Makariv, Bucha, Kyiv region and Kherson and the Swedish case of Göteborg.