NUT Kharkiv 2013 – Destruction, Diversity & Communication

Färgfabriken’s international program New Urban Topologies brings together architects, academics, artists, and officialls from Sweden, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the Middle East. The objective is to create conditions for dialogue regarding geographical, cultural and sociological conditions and to investigates how we can redesign and reformulate our common urban environment. New Urban Topologies was carried out in Kharkiv October 23 – 25, 2013.

Kharkiv in the Ukraine is a city looking for a new direction. The city, devastated during World war II, has since grown in leaps, from few inhabitants after the war, to 1,5 mill. at present time. The population growth is manifested in large tenement building areas, increasingly as towers, encircling the city in rings expanding from decade to decade. Since the transformation from a command economy to capitalism, Ukraine is experiencing a replacement of old and sometimes historical buildings by modern condos or office buildings, at times built on speculation and remaining more or less empty because of excessive price levels. At the same time, quite central areas of summer cottages, “datchas” on very small plots of land, are being renovated or demolished and replaced by modern one-family villas. While improving the housing standards in the city these two phenomena contribute to creating segregation between the economic elite and the ordinary citizens.

Kharkiv 520 web

Also, there is a need to preserve and restore the rather few remaining pre-revolutionary buildings as well as examples of constructivist architecture from the USSR era. Another issue of concern is new buildings – allowed by authorities because investors hold considerable means of influence – that block city views and street perspectives. Furthermore remaining heavy bureaucracy from the Soviet times, exacerbated by widespread corruption and deep mistrust of the authorities by the citizenry and of civil society by the government impede communications and transparency with regard to the transformation of the city.

Such were the issues that New Urban Topologies in Kharkiv, October 23 – 25 2013, set out to grapple with. New Urban Topologies participants in Kharkiv were of different generations and different walks of life; academics, practitioners, artists, activists and students. International participants from Beirut, Mostar and Minsk also contributed with their experiences, which led to many fruitful exchanges between the cities. Kharkiv shares a sad history of destruction by war with Beirut, Mostar and Minsk. In the two former cities armed conflict erupted because of ethno-religious differences. Kharkiv, also a city of many ethnicities, possesses potential assets in terms of multiculturalism. Another core area for improvement is consultation and communication between the administration, the professionals and the citizenry, a remnant of the fact that Kharkiv, Minsk, Mostar and Riga have emerged from authorita¬rian systems of government. One reason for the difficulties in this regard in the Ukraine is the juxtaposition of political forces which tend to lead to a stalemate in government action. On the positive side, all four cities are now at a stage of reconstruction, revitalization and reconciliation and can draw on each other’s current experiences.

“The older generation is educating the younger, but in the end I’m not sure who’s going to teach who.” Says Vladimir Bysov who’s being interviewed in the film.

This film was made during New Urban Topologies in Kharkiv. It’s describing the historical development of the city, current situation and possible future solutions – all investigated during the workshop.

Interview withVasylysa Shchogoleva

Vasylysa Shchogoleva, is an important key figure for New Urban Topologies in Kharkiv, she studies her last year at the architectural faculty in Kharkiv National University of Civil Engineering and Architecture.

Further reading

Download a pdf with more information about the project here.

Download a Russian version of the article here.