As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, architects speak out

Sympathy, Solidarity, Shock

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, architects speak out

(Max Kukurudziak/Unsplash)

This Monday, Dutch architecture and urban design firm MVRDV was seemingly first out the gate when it released a statement reacting to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked military invasion of neighboring Ukraine.

“We stand in solidarity with all the people who are defying and protesting against this war, and we strongly condemn the violence,” the Rotterdam-based firm wrote. “As architects and urbanists, we work in many countries to make a difference and we believe wholeheartedly in international dialogue and in peace. For this reason, we have immediately stopped our involvement in projects in Russia until further notice.”

MVRDV was working on several Russian projects when the conflict first broke out on February 24, including a major mixed-use residential development under construction in central Moscow. It was also at work at two projects in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, which the firm said have also “sadly been put on hold by the atrocities. “

In the days since MVRDV released its statement, the conflict in Ukraine has escalated and the number of major international architecture firms speaking out against the horrors unfolding on the soil of a sovereign Democratic country has grown.

Joining MVRDV, two other leading Dutch practices, OMA and UNStudio, have also shared statements announcing the suspension of ongoing projects in Russia. “We hope this tragic war ends sooner rather than later,” concludes a statement from OMA shared by Architectural Record.

UNStudio wrote that it is “deeply saddened by the Russian government’s violent invasion of Ukraine, and we strongly condemn these inhumane actions. We stand with the people of Ukraine — especially our colleagues who are directly and indirectly impacted by this turmoil.”

London-based Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA), which designed a trio of new subway stations in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro that just commenced construction earlier this year, has worked extensively in Russia, and was currently involved with two projects in the country at the onset of the invasion. Both have now been paused.

“ZHA has worked in Russia for four decades,” the studio said in a statement shared by Dezeen. “Zaha Hadid was originally inspired by works of the Russian avant-garde and many of our staff have taught architecture students at universities across the country.”

“We are deeply shocked and saddened by the conflict in Ukraine and have placed our two ongoing projects in Russia on hold,” the statement continued. “We have completed our contracted works on all other projects in the country and continue to monitor guidance from the UK Government.”

Another major London-headquartered firm, David Chipperfield Architects, also condemned Russia’s assault on Ukraine and announced it would suspend all work in the country “with the full understanding and support of our clients.”

“As a practice we believe in dialogue, openness and engagement; values that are directly opposed to the ongoing war,” reads a statement released by the firm. “We call for an immediate end to this human tragedy and our thoughts are with the innocent victims of this unjustified action.”

Snøhetta and Herzog & de Meuron also both released statements via social media (here and here) denouncing the barbarity being inflicted against the Ukrainian people while also announcing the suspension of all Russian projects.

Although in a slightly different boat than the above firms in that it does not have projects underway in Russia, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) also released a statement of solidarity. It reads in part: “BIG is not engaged in any projects in Russia or for the Russian government anywhere and our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, democracy, human rights, and territorial integrity is unwavering.”

AN will continue to add to this likely-to-grow list of individual firms as additional statements are released.

Beyond individual firms, major architecture organizations have spoken out including the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Wrote RIBA President Simon Allford in a March 2 statement: “Our thoughts are with all those affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has exposed the horrific effects of conflict on communities, and put the role that architecture plays in building resilient, collaborative and inclusive societies into sharp relief.”

As reported by the Architects’ Journal, Bee Breeders, a major organizer of international architecture and design competitions, said it would no longer accept submissions from Russian applicants for the time being.

And in Ukraine itself, Oleksandr Chyzhevsky, the president of the National Union of Architects of Ukraine (CANY), has passionately implored the International Union of Architects (IUA) to suspend the Union of Architects of Russia’s membership from the non-governmental global organization. As reported by Dezeen, the IAU has expressed its solidarity with Ukraine but has not gone as far as to purge Russia from the organization.

And while the varied pre-political career of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been the topic of much online chatter this week, it’s worth noting out that his wife, First Lady Olena Zelenska, trained as an architect at the Faculty of Civil Engineering at Kryvyi Rih National University although she ultimately went on to pursue a career as a comedy screenwriter. She is currently in hiding in Ukraine with their two young children but remains active on social media.

@maxklymenko Proof that Putin lies to his people, and to the world 🌍 #standwithukraine #ukraine ♬ original sound – Max Klymenko

Within Russia, more than 6,500 architects and urban planners have signed an open letter condemning the actions of Putin and their country’s government, decrying the invasion as “unacceptable.”

“The war devalues ​​the very essence of the activity of an architect and urban planner, no matter what country he is in. It violates the rights of people: to life, security, self-realization, a comfortable and healthy environment—all those values ​​that are the basis of our activities,” reads a portion of the letter, which was published in Russian architectural magazine Project Russia.

Outside of architecture, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had wide-ranging reverberations on a number of cultural and artistic institutions across the globe including symphonies, opera and ballet companies, international art exhibitions, fashion houses, and museums, including those located in Russia.

Update: 3/7/2021

  • On March 7, Dallas-headquartered multinational infrastructure consulting giant AECOM published a statement by its CEO Troy Rudd announcing an “immediate exit from our business operations in Russia.” Wrote Rudd: “We support the people of Ukraine who are facing tremendous suffering as a result of Russia’s unlawful invasion. Russia’s actions are inconsistent with Aecom’s values and have compromised the business environment for Aecom, our clients and our joint activities in Russia. For Aecom, the impact of these actions is particularly unfortunate for our colleagues from our Russia business, and we have taken steps to provide them support during this transition. As always, our priority continues to be ensuring the safety, security and well-being of our teams throughout the region.”