On February 24th, 2022, Russia launched the invasion of Ukraine, triggering the largest and most rapidly unfolding refugee crisis in modern-day Europe. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), nearly 6.5 million people were displaced within Ukraine, and 3.4 million fled across international borders into neighboring countries since the onset of the war. The humanitarian crisis united the world in protest against the military violence targeting civilians and triggered an unprecedented global response in support of the aid efforts. The architecture community has also rallied in support of Ukraine, condemning the war, halting work in Russia, and supporting Ukrainian creative professionals by hiring their services.
The war on Ukraine unfolded a rapidly growing refugee crisis with 3.4 million people, primarily women and children, forced to abandon their home country. More than 2 million refugees have fled into neighboring Poland, also home to the largest Ukrainian diaspora. Here and in the neighboring countries of Hungary, Romania, the Republic of Moldova, and Slovakia, governments and civil society have mobilized to meet refugees’ reception and integration needs for the short and longer term. Universities and schools have already integrated refugee children, and many Ukrainians seek work across the EU. Various initiatives have been developed to help architects and designers in Ukraine whose work and livelihoods have been disrupted by war.
The Architects Council of Europe has established a special task force dedicated to finding and disseminating ways for European architects to help Ukraine and its creative professionals. The organization is constantly sharing initiatives and actions across Europe to support Ukrainian refugees, such as databases of job offers for Ukrainian architects and designers or various forms of aid for Ukrainian refugees provided by local architectural organizations. In numerous countries, such as Denmark, France, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, architects have mobilized in providing work opportunities for their Ukrainian colleagues, which are also promoted via ACE.
The Hire for Ukraine initiative provides a platform for connecting architects and other creatives to potential employers. Similarly, the Polish National Institute for Architecture and Urban Planning (NIAiU) has built a database of people and businesses working in the creative industry who can offer employment for Ukrainian architects. UK Architects for Ukraine is a form created by UK architects to match Ukrainian nationals displaced by the war in Ukraine with sponsors and in-person work at UK architecture practices.
In RIBA’s latest guidance to the Ukrainian humanitarian crisis, the institution announced it would use the RIBA Jobs platform to match refugees with employment opportunities in the UK, requiring practices hiring displaced architects to also offer free accommodation for a 6-month period. RIBA advises Ukrainian architects or students to contact the National Union of Architects of Ukraine that in turn is receiving support from the Architects Council of Europe, which will help them connect to architectural organizations across Europe.
Architects are also putting their skills in the service of providing shelter for Ukrainian refugees. Renowned for his involvement in humanitarian aid, Shigeru Ban and the Voluntary Architects' Network have provided the Paper Partition System (PPS) to countries neighbouring Ukraine. The system has been previously used successfully in disaster relief efforts after the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, the Hokkaido Earthquake in 2018, or the torrential rain in southern Kyushu in 2020. So far, the system has been installed in a former supermarket near the Polish-Ukrainian border and in Wroclaw Railway Station. Similarly, the Kharkiv-based architecture practice Drozdov&Partners, together with Replus Bureau and Ponomarenko Bureau are seeking to transform a school in Lviv into a temporary refugee shelter for internally-displaced Ukrainians.
Check the list of organizations and aid groups you can contribute to and help alleviate the humanitarian crisis.