Lithuanian architects gather a community for the reconstruction of Ukrainian cities


6/8/20223 min read

At the first international event “Rebuild Wonderful Ukraine”, representatives of Lithuanian and Ukrainian architectural communities and non-governmental organizations discussed how Lithuanian urban planning professionals could help Ukrainians rebuilding war-ravaged cities. One of the most important priorities is the fastest possible reconstruction of kindergartens and schools, transforming the Soviet spatial propaganda into an inspiring vision of the future Ukraine.

“At the first event, we learned a lot of valuable information that will help us to direct our efforts in the right direction”, says Gilma Teodora Gylytė, the initiator of the “Rebuilt Wonderful Ukraine” project and the founder of the architectural company “DO Architects”.

Mindaugas Pakalnis, the chief architect of Vilnius, who participated in the event, presented different visions of cities, reviewed the differences between post-Soviet and Western cities, distinguished the differences of development strategies of cities such as Amsterdam versus Dubai, and inspired Ukrainians to choose the path of a Western European city development.

Gilma Teodora Gylytė proposed 4 essential first steps of rebuilding destroyed cities, which would show a vision of the wonderful future of Ukraine – rebuilding schools, rebuilding them by transforming Soviet spaces into cozy and inspiring community spaces. The next steps are: a street project, an apartment building project and a light fixture in every window as a symbol of life and community.

Oleg Drozdov, the founder of the Kharkiv School of Architecture and the ideological leader of this project in Ukraine, emphasized that Lithuanian urban planning specialists have experience which is very close to Ukraine situation, so they can feel the local context and specifics much better and offer architectural and urban solutions suitable for Ukrainians.

Dovydas Vitkauskas, lawyer, founder of the support organization “SOS Ukraine”, drew attention to the great importance of promoting private property in rebuilding cities; philosopher Viktoras Bachmetjevas – about the need to include as wide a circle of citizens as possible in each stage of reconstruction, to enable them to participate in decision-making, because it is these citizens who will live in the reconstructed cities.

Rūta Leitanaitė, chairwoman of the Lithuanian Union of Architects, raised the need for close cooperation between local and international architects. Architects from both countries agreed that it is also necessary to find fast, cost-efficient, and modern accommodation solutions for the inhabitants of the destroyed cities.

The Vice Minister of Education of Ukraine Andriy Vitrenko, who participated in the event, highlighted the merciless fact of this war – the Russian army primarily destroys the country’s educational institutions, thus aiming to destroy the Ukrainian education system for many years and paralyze the development of the entire country.

“We greatly appreciate the help of the people of Lithuania and this initiative. We will especially need help in restoring the Ukrainian education system, creating sustainable learning models, rebuilding our schools”, said the Vice Minister of Education of Ukraine. According to him, having successfully restored its educational institutions, Ukraine will be able to become a source of renewal for the whole of Europe.

“Close cooperation will be a key element in the reconstruction of Ukrainian cities. And the Ukrainians themselves will have to answer the question of what kind of new country, what kind of new cities they want. Ukrainian society will live with the trauma of the war for a long time and the search to an answer what the new Ukraine should be, will be sought for a long time,” said Oleg Drozdov at the event.

Sabina Grincevičiūtė, architect, one of the founders of “DO Architects” and Donatas Baltrušaitis, urban planner, founder of “Bauland”, emphasized that when rebuilding cities, it is first necessary to focus on local and specific projects that gather communities and set an example. The current strategy is to try to rebuild the destroyed buildings as best as possible by de-programming the Soviet propaganda and changing it to the Ukraine of the future. Long-term master plans for cities would certainly not be effective at this time.

The “Rebuild Wonderful Ukraine” project invites all Lithuanian architects, as well as philosophers and media, NGO communities to discuss and form an effective Lithuanian proposal for the reconstruction of Ukrainian cities. Today, the spiritual support of Ukrainians is particularly important, so discussions about the successful and beautiful future of Ukraine are very necessary,” says Gilma Teodora Gylytė.