The fall of the Iron Curtain in 1991 came not only with political, economic, and social implications but also left behind a distinctive style of architecture. This architecture, under the Soviet regime, was a system which relied on quantifiable targets, such as the Five Year Plan. These quotas forced architects to evaluate building projects in terms of material and labor costs, number of units, volume of skilled and unskilled labor, and so forth. As a result, architecture across these regions became an industrial commodity, an outward flex of power and technological innovation, and a collective of architects executing a Stalinist vision.
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In Dnipro, Ukraine, sits a unique multi-purpose pavilion rich with historical roots and design influence. Stage is a collaborative project between architects from Ukraine, Poland, Denmark and Italy, crowdsourced and crowdfunded by the citizens of Dnipro. The site for the pavilion has been centered around community involvement throughout the complex history of Dnipro, but it has laid unused for over 70 years.
April 26th saw the 32nd anniversary of the 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster, with the explosion of the Reactor 4 of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine causing the direct deaths of 31 people, the spreading of radioactive clouds across Europe, and the effective decommissioning of 19 miles of land in all directions from the plant. Thirty-two years later, a dual reading of the landscape is formed: one of engineering extremes, and one of eeriness and desolation.
The Fallen Leaf, designed by Eric Rodrigues, has been named the first-place winner of the competition for the new Sylvan open air theatre in Cherkasy City Park, Ukraine. With a plan to demolish the old building, the new theatre is inspired by nature: it integrates into the landscape of the Cherkasy municipal park and uses only natural and locally sourced stone and wood. The form of the glue laminated timber roof is that of a falling leaf, whose organic slope helps to enhance the theatre's acoustics.
In a 'long view' piece for The Calvert Journal, Owen Hatherley tackles one of the most pressing cultural questions facing many former Soviet countries: should the Ukrainian capital of Kiev (or Kyiv) erase its Soviet past or learn to live with history? For a city which saw a popular revolution against "a grotesquely wealthy elite" last year, Kiev is developing a flourishing independent cultural scene. In this article Hatherley, who has taken part in the city's 2015 art biennial, expertly narrates the city's Soviet, post-Soviet and contemporary "oligarch-funded" architecture to ask: "if Soviet Ukraine can’t be wished away, what should be conserved, and what should be rejected?"
Around the globe, the post-war years were a period of optimism and extreme experimentation. On both sides of the cold war's ideological divide, this optimism found its greatest expression, architecturally speaking, in modernism - but of course, the particular circumstances of each city offered a unique spin on the modernist project. According to the curators of "Superstructure," an exhibition presented at Kiev's Visual Culture Research Center from January 28th to February 28th, the utopian architectural works of Kiev represented "an attempt to transform the city into the environment for materialization of artistic thinking – in contrast to the strict unification of city space by typical construction and residential blocks." Architects such as Edward Bilsky and Florian Yuriyev, often working in collaboration with artists such as Ada Rybachuk and Volodymyr Melnychenko attempted to create projects that were a complete synthesis of architecture and art - an approach to design that often didn't sit well with the Ukrainian authorities of the time.
The City of Kyiv has launched an international design competition aiming to commemorate the lives lost in Ukraine's Maidan Revolution, both through a memorial to their memory and through implementing the ideals of the revolution in the urban space surrounding Maidan Nezalezhnosti. The competition, honed through months of public discussions and consultations, is being organized by the Kyiv City State Administration and Ukraine's Ministry of Culture. More details after the break.
In a fascinating article for the Guardian, Owen Hatherley visits Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) in Kiev, the public square at the heart of the Ukranian revolution that ironically was designed under Stalin as a Baron Hausmann-style weapon against uprisings. Hatherley examines how elements of the public space were utilized by protesters, and how different areas of the square are now hosting a variety of political factions. You can read the full article here.
The recently announced 'User-Generated Kyiv Ideas Competition' is searching for creative ideas and architectural solutions on building a better city. In nowadays circumstances, where citizens arise and understand that a city should be built by its citizens, the competition aims to convert the maximum energy generated by the revolutionary wave into urban ideas and new functions of public space.
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