On the 24th of February 2022, Russia launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine. Set to become Europe’s largest refugee crisis and armed conflict in this century, so far, this war has mobilized people across the world in order to exert pressure on authorities and put a stop to the armed hostilities. Individuals, as well as institutions in the architectural field, have taken part in these acts of solidarity, issuing statements, condemning actions, and even halting their work in Russia. From the UIA to MVRDV to Russian Institutions such as Strelka, the architecture world is denouncing the acts of violence and supporting an immediate cease of fire.
In support of Ukraine, the International Union of Architects (UIA), the leading global organization of architects, issued a letter expressing “its unwavering solidarity with all those affected and calls for unity and peace among nations”, condemning any act of violence or war. Founded in 1948, after the Second World War, to unite architects around the world and actively participate in the reconstruction of devastated cities and villages, the UIA is also calling for “the protection of the invaluable architectural heritage threatened by this conflict”.
MVRDV took a bold step and stopped immediately its involvement in projects in Russia until further notice. In a statement on the war in Ukraine, released on their website, the architecture practice explains the decision and states that “we have stopped our Russian projects, even though this means we have to stop collaborating with people we have known for years, and who are dedicated to bringing a more collaborative international outlook to Russia”. Affected twofold, ongoing projects in Ukraine have been also put on hold. Besides MVRDV, OMA, Herzog et de Meuron and David Chipperfield architects decided to also suspend all work in Russia until further notice. Zaha Hadid Architects also joined the list of architects pausing their projects, as reported by several news outlets, while UNstudio condemned the inhumane actions, explaining that they are "currently considering how best to handle this situation and are assessing the impact it has on our staff and projects in both countries". BIG- Bjarke Ingles Group joined in solidarity, stating that they are not engaging currently in any project in Russia, on their Facebook account. e-flux, a publishing platform and archive, artist project, curatorial platform, and enterprise, also announced backing up the people of Ukraine “in their resistance to the invasion of their country by Russian forces”, and standing in solidarity with their colleagues working in Ukraine’s cultural sector. In a very open statement, the platform denounced the acts of violence and urged readers to learn more about the conflict and to act to support those affected by it.
International architects, artists, designers, academics, and historians including Ilya Khrzhanovskiy, Jean-Louis Cohen, Manuel Herz, Iwan Baan, Andrés Jaque, ArchDaily founder David Basulto, to name a very few, working with the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, in Kyiv also condemned the violent acts on Ukraine, refusing to allow the armed conflict from preventing their work of memorialization: “The story of Babyn Yar is essential to the history of Ukraine, and the people of the world. We will do whatever is in our power to preserve the memory not only of what may seem to be a distant past, but also the history that is made in the present.” Confirming that the competition for the new master plan of the site will move forward, the team expressed their support to their friends and colleagues in Ukraine.
Read more about the Babyn Yar tragedy and learn about the competition.
In terms of approaching or ongoing exhibitions, Triennale Milano announced in a statement shared across platforms that “War will not triumph over dialogue and interaction” and confirmed the presence of the Ukrainian Pavilion at its forthcoming 23rd edition, opening at the beginning of summer. Establishing a platform of dialogue with Planeta Ukrain, the institution intends to promote a series of events in preparation, involving Ukrainian and international artists, intellectuals, and scientists who are committed to “defending the values of freedom, democracy, and dialogue between peoples across the world”. Furthermore, Stefano Boeri, President of Triennale Milano has also declared that “the invitation to the Russian Government to take part in the international exhibition with a pavilion of its own has been withdrawn”.
As for La Biennale di Venezia, the curator and artists of the Russian Pavilion at Biennale Arte 2022, Raimundas Malašauskas along with Alexandra Sukhareva and Kirill Savchenkov have resigned from their positions, thereby canceling the participation in the 59th International Art Exhibition planned for this April. In fact, Malašauskas, born and raised in Lithuania, when it was still part of the Soviet Union, stated that he could not continue his work for political and human reasons. He explains that “the idea of going back or going towards subjugation to Russia or to another empire is simply intolerable”. The organization expressed its solidarity with this decision, calling it a “noble act of courage” and stressing that “la Biennale remains a place where peoples meet in art and culture and condemns all those who use violence to prevent dialogue and peace”.Moreover, Ukraine has temporarily suspended work on its contribution to the international exhibition, as reported by Ukrainian artist Pavlo Makov and curators Lizaveta German, Maira Lanko, and Borys Filonenko. “We are not in immediate danger, but the situation is critical and changes every minute. Presently, we are not able to continue working on the project of the pavilion due to the danger to our lives,” explained the team in a statement published on the Twitter account of Ukraine's pavilion at Venice Biennale. They added that “we cannot confirm yet that our project will be completed, but we can promise that we will do everything possible to save unique artwork produced by Pavlo Makov and our big team”.
Solidarity statements and actions that condemn the ongoing tragedy were not limited to institutions in Europe and the US. In fact, Russian organizations are also supporting Ukraine against the acts of their government and pleading for an immediate end to this conflict. Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture, and Design has put all work and programs on hold indefinitely, as publicized on their Instagram account. Established in Moscow, Russia, the Institute that focuses on researching cities and developing ideas for a planetary future, explains that in order to have “a conversation about the future, there needs to be peace”. The statement declares that “we consider it impermissible to carry on business as usual in the present situation while lives in Ukraine are being lost.” Furthermore, architects and urban planners of Russia are mobilizing their efforts in order to highlight their position against military operations in Ukraine. They have issued an open letter stating that “we, the architects and urban planners of Russia, find the invasion of Ukrainian territory by Russian troops unacceptable. […] War devalues the very essence of an architect's activity, no matter in which country. It violates the rights of people: to live, the right to safety, self-realization, and a comfortable and healthy environment - our activities are based on all these values”.
To help alleviate the humanitarian crisis, check the list of organizations and aid groups.