The first weeks of the war, waged on Ukraine by Russia, were extremely difficult for the Kharkiv School of Architecture (KhSA). Everyone had to escape the hell into which our city had been turned. Our teachers and students are now relatively safe. Almost everyone fled Kharkiv; some are still on their way to a place of safety.

Now that some time has passed, we must consider our future. The Kharkiv School of Architecture has decided that it will continue working, maintaining its presence in Ukraine. We need to take a long-term view at this challenging time – and this means pursuing the rigorous education of a new generation of architects and urbanists who will remain in Ukraine and will rebuild our cities.

We also strive to become a platform for communication and dialogue between our international friends and collaborators, aiming to rethink and recover Kharkiv and other destroyed cities after the war.

The wider European academic community has already provided invaluable support and shelter to Ukrainian students. But “brain drain” risks depleting Ukraine of vital skills and knowledge that are essential to its physical reconstruction and rebuilding its future. It is crucial that we accumulate and nurture the intellectual and technical forces within Ukraine itself. This is a key part of KhSA’s mission.

The school is now reformatting its curriculum, and we have resumed online learning. It is not easy, as many of our students and faculty do not have stable internet connection. We are all involved in volunteering to help our fellow citizens at this time of great need. Several of our students and staff have joined the defense forces and the army. Nevertheless, teaching and learning needs to continue despite this war. Ukraine will need architects and built environment professionals to rebuild its cities for its citizens. This is why KhSA is joining forces with a range of collaborators and supporters in Ukraine and across the world. And it is why we are focusing our energy on adapting the skills we need to the reality of the present situation – one requiring shelter and housing, short- and long-term accommodation, and the reconstruction of society and its citizen and civic spaces.

We are certain of Ukraine’s victory! Therefore, despite the horrors of this war, we have been working closely together with local professionals and the wider architectural community to plan the reconstruction of our country.

Перші два тижні війни, яку оголосила Україні росія були дуже складними для Харківської школи архітектури. Всі старалися вибратися з того пекла, в яке російські війська перетворили наш Харків. Наші викладачі/-чки і студенти/-тки зараз у відносній безпеці. Майже всі виїхали з Харкова. Дехто ще в дорозі до безпечного місця тимчасового проживання. Але вже зараз ми стараємося заспокоїтися, наскільки це можливо, і думати про наше майбутнє.

 

Харківська школа архітектури прийняла рішення, що ми продовжуємо роботу і залишаємося в Україні. Для нас дуже важливо в цей важкий час думати на довгу перспективу, а це – освіта нашого молодого покоління архітекторів/-рок, які залишаються в Україні і будуть відбудовувати наші міста.
Ми також прагнемо стати площадкою комунікації і діалогу наших друзів і експертів архітекторів/-рок з різних країн, окрім росії, для відновлення Харкова і інших зруйнованих міст після війни.

 

Підтримка, яку надають нам зараз західні університети, пропонуючи прихисток нашим студентам безцінна, але ми маємо зробити все можливе для того, щоб акумулювати всі можливі сили, зусилля і ресурси в Україні.

 

Школа зараз переформатовує свою програму і ми відновлюємо навчання онлайн. Це доволі складно, оскільки в багатьох наших студентів/-ток і викладачів/-чок зараз немає безперебійного зв’язку через інтернет. Всі ми долучаємося до роботи в волонтерських проєктах, а декілька наших студентів і працівників пішли в тероборону і армію. Тим не менше нам дуже важливо тримати зв’язок, підтримувати один одного і продовжувати навчання в бойових умовах, бо нам всім з новими знаннями і досвідами повертатися в наші зруйновані міста і відновлювати їх.

 

Ми віримо в нашу перемогу і готові будувати наше майбутнє разом з українською спільнотою та архітектурним середовищем.

In March 2022, we evacuated the Kharkiv School to Lviv, Ukraine. This city was chosen for several reasons. At present, in the time of war, Lviv is one of the safest cities in Ukraine. The School intends to continue in-person education as soon as possible, which supports our decision to relocate. Another important factor was the support rendered to us by various platforms and institutions in Lviv.

The Lviv National Academy of Arts has become our major partner.  The Academy has generously proposed to host our School and provided it with premises to continue the training process. This opportunity has allowed us to recommence our academic work in a mixed in-person/online format, and to gather most of the School team and faculty in Lviv. We have already started the 2022–2023 enrolment campaign for the Bachelor’s degree programme here, in Lviv.

The first School open days were conducted in May, with much interest being showed by young people and their parents. The pool of our enrollees has broadened geographically and now, besides Eastern Ukraine, it also includes students from the central and western regions. The public events we conduct in Lviv attract vast audiences and this gives us strength and motivation to start from scratch in a new city, becoming part of the city’s stakeholders and involved in its discussions.

Sharing the Academy of Arts’ campus is an opportunity to develop cooperation with a state-run higher educational establishment, whose new team puts into practice the values of freedom, creativity and responsibility. Thus, the Lviv Academy and the Kharkiv School share a common system of values, rooted in an awareness of the importance of high-quality education and innovative, up-to-date approaches to socially-focused training. Joint projects and exchanges of experience will strengthen both our institutions.

For KhSA, the Academy’s campus will become a hub for training and research. As part of their autumn semester Studio course, our second-year students will work with the Academy’s library, conceptualising it as a place of inter-sectional experience, an exchange of knowledge and informal training. Our students’ workshop on barrier-free environments will be based on research into the accessibility of campus spaces. Students will identify challenging cases and design relevant project proposals. A joint traineeship in construction for the first-year students of the KhSA and the Academy will focus on these campus public spaces. It will conclude with research into spaces that are to be customised for the students and the local residents.

For a year, the Academy of Arts has become our host. KhSA is currently refurbishing the premises to meet the needs of the staff, students and its educational programmes. We are preparing studio spaces, modelling and the carpentry workshops, and have relocated the library from Kharkiv, which is now rapidly expanding with support from international publishers and individual researchers. We are working hard before the academic year commences in Lviv to ensure that the spaces we are using generate comfortable and supportive learning environments.

When the staff and students from the Kharkiv School of Architecture (KhSA) fled the war in Kharkiv in March 2022, many ended up in Lviv. Once settled into the day-to-day reality of life in displacement, they sought to contribute their time and skills to helping their fellow citizens by volunteering. Seeking to have even greater impact through collective action as professionals, Oleg Drozdov, the founder of KhSA and director of Drozdov & Partners architectural practice, initiated conversations with the local authorities in Lviv about the support they need in order to cope with the large numbers of displaced people arriving in the city. The urgent need to provide accommodation – mostly in large halls, as collective centres – was flagged.

With the fortuitous support of architects in Poland who had erected similar shelter for Ukrainian refugees there, alongside Ponomarenko Bureau and RePlus Bureau, Shigeru Ban’s Paper Partition Systems (PPS) were deployed to Lviv, consisting of readily available cardboard tubes and curtain fabrics to provide internal partitioning in collective accommodation. KhSA’s staff and students contributed to site planning, layout, design and construction, of these internal partitions that were rapidly installed in 16 locations in Lviv and Uman. They provide safe spaces for families within large halls, allowing privacy and dignity, and the return to some sense of normality after arduous journeys across Ukraine in search of safety. The first requirements requested by new arrivals to Lviv were for spaces of rest and peace. These requirements became our main goals.

One of the advantages of the partition system is simplicity of its installation. After a short training, non-construction professionals were able to install it. It was very important for us to use materials that could be reused afterwards, and that are readily available in the local area. Before receiving the partition systems from Poland, KhSA upgraded one shelter with partitions made from construction fences. The same approach was used for furniture. Beds and seats for public spaces were made of pallets.

All shelters were constructed and installed by volunteers, many of whom are students of the School. Some students became members of the design team, such as Konstiantyn Palieev, a third year student, who designed shelters and supervised their construction.

Identifying and responding to the challenges faced by Ukraine’s cities and citizens today, in the midst of war, is part of the social responsibility that the Kharkiv School of Architecture has taken upon itself. Beyond the immediate crisis, physical destruction alongside the devastation of communities and paradigms demands a new educational programme for the architects, urban planners and built environment professionals of Ukraine’s future.

We are adapting our Bachelors and Masters programmes to reflect this new reality. Rooted firmly in a nuanced historical knowledge of the local context, and sensitive to the changing dynamics and drivers of present, the school is developing a series of modules that will furnish Ukraine with the skills, capacities and knowledge required to rebuild.

While the curriculum is still in development, themes are likely to address:

  • Pre-fabrication and dwelling, responding to the high demand for rapidly-produced accommodation, and building on a rich tradition of panel housing.
  • Urbanism and the architecture of peace grapples with the social responsibility of built environment professionals in this new context – as mediators, advocates and citizens – and the possibility of spaces and places being tools for peace.
  • Heritage, memory and critical reconstruction turns the destruction of collective memory into a reflection on heritage and cities of the future.
  • Typology and climate reflects upon the evolution of vernacular buildings and their adaptation – and adaptability – to a changing climate and social situation.
  • Sustainability refers again to our social responsibility, given the urgency of addressing climate change and preventing environmental degradation through our actions. Technology and scientific understanding are aligned with our understanding of history and heritage, construction and building.

In March 2022, the Kharkiv School of Architecture started asking its international and national networks to think about the reconstruction of Ukraine. Since then, an expanding group of experts regularly meet to discuss critical urban planning issues that are coming into play during the war, and which are likely to present a new context after the war’s end.

Ro3kvit: urban coalition for Ukraine is a Ukrainian organization comprised of specialists in urban planning, regional planning, housing, heritage and other related fields, such as economy, law, energy, circularity, sociology and policy-making. Ro3kvit works as an open-source network in close collaboration with students and citizens. At least half of Ro3kvit’s participants are from Ukraine, working alongside international experts who have a strong connection with the country. Here, research, design and policy advice evolve into new strategies and methodologies for rebuilding Ukraine. The Kharkiv School of Architecture is a partner of Ro3kvit, and provides part of the educational program for the coalition.