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Published: 2024-02-16

Architecture students in workshop on Sustainable recovery of Ukraine

NEWS At the end of January, twenty-six students from Umeå School of Architecture participated in an international workshop on strategies and methods for the sustainable recovery of Ukraine. The Umeå students were on site for two weeks in the Polish capital of Warsaw, one of the two host cities for the workshop, the other being Lviv in western Ukraine.

Text: Erik Persson

Building back better was the title of the architecture workshop and exhibition that took place in parallel in Warsaw in Poland and Lviv in Ukraine. The collaboration included four universities, the Kharkiv School of Architecture in Ukraine, the Warsaw University of Technology in Poland, the University of Limerick in Ireland, and Umeå School of Architecture in Sweden. During two intensive weeks, around a hundred students, teachers, researchers, representatives from voluntary organizations, professional architects, municipal officials, activists, and residents participated in important discussions around strategies and methods for the sustainable rebuilding of Ukraine.

Focus on global challenges

The students from Umeå School of Architecture study at master's level and are part of the teaching studio titled Studio 10: Global Challenges. The studio is taught by teachers Amalia Katopodis, Joël Jouannet and Professor Robert Mull and focuses on socio-political, economic and environmental global challenges, targeting concrete situations and places that people find themselves in as a consequence of these factors and explores new models of architecture and urbanism able to contribute within these contexts.

– Architectural education is generally bad at addressing global challenges, preferring instead to remain neutral. But over the past five years students from Umeå University have made a significant contribution to the Global Free Unit’s work with refugees in Greece and Turkey and now on the recovery of Ukraine. Students have been committed, compassionate and  professional and have made a real difference to the lives of those they have worked with and now to the debate about the future of Ukraine. They should be very proud but there is still so much to do, says Professor Robert Mull, founder of the Global Free Unit and guest professor at Umeå School of Architecture.

Amalia Katopodis, teacher and Studio 10 coordinator continues:
– This year the studio focuses on the situation in Ukraine, working closely together with our network of colleagues at the Kharkiv School of Architecture and at Ro3kvit: The Urban Coalition for Ukraine, as well as with architectural practices and voluntary organizations in Poland contributing to the ongoing discussions and knowledge exchange around Ukraine’s urgent need for a sustainable recovery. In this way, the workshop is a central piece of the puzzle in the studio's direction during this academic year.

Working with the city Dnipro

On site in Warsaw, the students from Umeå worked together with other students and teachers from the participating institutions, under the advice of experts gathered from different disciplines. The focus was on Ukraine's fourth largest city, Dnipro, located in the south-eastern part of the country, between Donbass in the east, Kharkiv in the north and Zaporizhzhia and Kherson in the south. The research, design work and exhibition stretched across four different scales nested within each other: the Dnipro River basin, the city of Dnipro itself, the Peremoha micro district and a specific housing block within that area.

Joël Jouannet works as an adjunct lecturer at Umeå School of Architecture, alternating his time between teaching in Studio 10 and his architectural practice.
– Discovering a new territory, here the city of Dnipro and more precisely the Peremoha residential area, opened a new horizon of challenges that are facing us. Reconstruction and rethinking of former soviet cities re as much in a need to acknowledge the local actors and foster initiatives that may feed good architecture. Architecture feels more than ever an expression that must find its roots in the usages of space, says Joël Jouannet back in Umeå on his reflections from the workshop.

Challenging group work

One of the students participating was Lina Degerth. For her, one of the most memorable details was the structure of the workshop, taking place in parallel on at least three sites, communicating with each other live by virtual interpreters.
​​– The workshop highlighted the potentials that collaborative learning environments outside of the architecture school can offer students. The content of the workshop also exposed us to the importance of listening and daring to engage in real and complex topics to the best of our ability. It was fun to witness and merge the UMA working culture with the other workshop participants while navigating tricky hybrid group work, says Lina Degerth.

The workshop was supported by the Norwegian Refugee Council and EGALA, the Warsaw Observatory of Culture and National Institute of Architecture and Urban Planning in Poland, ARUP, Greenpeace and Ro3kvit.