On the Ongoing Hostilities: Architectural Institutions Rally in Support of Ukraine

Russia invaded Ukraine in large numbers. This war is expected to be the largest refugee crisis in Europe and the most armed conflict of the century. People from all over the globe have mobilized to put pressure on authorities to stop the armed hostilities. These acts of solidarity have been undertaken by individuals and institutions from the architectural world. They issued statements condemning actions and even stopped work in Russia. The architecture world, from the UIA to MVRDV and Russian Institutions like Strelka condemns violence and supports an immediate cease-fire.

The International Union of Architects, the world’s largest architect organization, sent a letter in support of Ukraine. It expressed ” its solidarity with all affected persons and called for unity and peace between nations” and condemned any act of violence and war. The UIA was established in 1948 to unify architects from around the globe and participate in reconstruction efforts in devastated cities and villages. It also calls for ” protection of the valuable architectural heritage that is being threatened by this conflict“.

via MVRDV,  used under terms of "fair use"

MVRDV made a bold move and ceased all involvement in Russian projects until further notice. The architecture firm released a statement about the war in Ukraine on their website. It stated that ” We have stopped our Russian Projects, even though it means we must stop collaborating with people who we have known for many years and who are committed to bringing Russia a more collaborative international outlook.” Twofold: ongoing projects in Ukraine were also put on hold. e-flux is a publishing platform, archive, curator platform, artistic platform and enterprise. It also stated that it was supporting the people of Ukraine in resisting the invasion by Russian forces and stood in solidarity with colleagues in the cultural sector of Ukraine. The platform made a clear statement condemning violence and asked readers to read more about it and to help those who are affected.

Ilya Khrzhanovskiy and Jean-Louis Cohen are international architects, artists and designers. They also collaborate with the Babyn Yor Holocaust Memorial Centre in Kyiv. The team assured their Ukrainian friends and colleagues that they will continue to support the new masterplan competition.

Babyn Yar Synagogue by Manuel Herz, image by Iwan Baan. Image Courtesy of BYHMC
Babyn Yar Synagogue by Manuel Herz, image by Iwan Baan. Image Courtesy of BYHMC
The Mirror Field Installation. Image Courtesy of BYHMC
The Mirror Field Installation. Image Courtesy of BYHMC

Triennale Milano shared a statement across platforms stating that War would not prevail over dialogue and interaction and confirmed the presence at its 23rd edition. It will open at the start of summer. The institution established a platform for dialogue with Planeta Ukrain. It plans to promote a series events involving international and Ukrainian artists, intellectuals and scientists committed to ” defending freedom, democracy and dialogue among peoples around the world“. Stefano Boeri (President of Triennale Milano) has declared that has withdrawn the invitation to Russia to participate in the international exhibition with its own pavilion.

La Biennale di Venezia’s curators and artists, Raimundas Malasiskas, Alexandra Sukhareva, and Kirill Savchenkov, have all resigned. This will cancel their participation in the 59th International Art Exposition scheduled for April. Malasauskas was born in Lithuania and raised there during the Soviet Union. He stated that he couldn’t continue his work due to political and human reasons. He explained that “The idea of going back to Russia or moving towards subjugation under another empire or country is simply intolerable.” According to Pavlo Makov, a Ukrainian artist, and the curators Maira Lanko and Borys Filonenko, Ukraine temporarily suspended its participation to the international exhibition. Although we are not currently in danger, the situation is changing rapidly and it is becoming more difficult. The team stated that they are unable to continue work on the pavilion project due to the threat to their lives. They stated that they cannot yet confirm that the project will be completed but that they can promise to preserve unique artwork created by Pavlo Makkov and his large team.

Not only institutions in the US and Europe could issue solidarity statements or take action to condemn the current tragedy, but also other countries. Russian organizations support Ukraine against their government’s actions and plead for an end to the conflict. According to their Instagram account, the Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture, and Design put all programs and work on hold indefinitely. The Institute, which focuses on developing ideas and researching cities for a better planet, was established in Moscow, Russia. It explains that ” must be a conversation about future” in order to have ” peace . According to the statement, they consider it immoral to continue business as usual while lives are being lost in Ukraine. In an open letter, they stated that Russian architects and urban planners consider the invasion of Ukrainian territory illegal. […] War is a devaluation of the essence of architect’s work, regardless of where it takes place. It violates people’s rights: safety, life, self-realization, comfort, and a healthy environment. Our activities are based upon all of these values.