Rebuilding Ukraine with Transitional Housing
Architect, Founder, CEO of balbek bureau
In the nine months since the February 2022 outbreak of war in Ukraine, tens of thousands of lives have been lost, and the country has experienced destruction at ‘an industrial scale’. As the war wages on, it is a remarkable and saddening fact that in a country of 43 million people, more than a million homes have been damaged or destroyed, with millions more (up to 25% of the entire population) currently displaced – living in limbo elsewhere in Ukraine or abroad.
Since the outbreak of the war, a team of local award-winning architects in Kyiv, led by Slava Balbek, the architect founder and CEO of balbek bureau, has been working on solutions to thoughtfully rebuild Ukraine – whenever that time comes. While Slava’s firm has designed it all, they are known mostly for their high-end hotels, sleek restaurants, and bars (some of the top social spaces in Europe). He has now shifted his focus to solve a larger social challenge at hand: how will millions of his fellow citizens make the transition back home? And just as important, how can it be done in a dignified, restorative, and scalable way?
His solution – titled “RE: Ukraine Housing” – is to build a series of transitional housing campuses across the country designed to be ‘dignified temporary living’. The design solution is a ‘system of living’ of both apartments – for families, co-living, and single occupancy residences – along with many indoor and outdoor shared social spaces to help build back social and community bonds. The campuses, built in partnership with NGOs/foundations/government, would be built using simple, low-cost, and relatively fast construction methods, to be opened within a few months to first provide housing to locals building back their homes in the area, and then beyond the rebuilding phase, communities could keep them open as full-time recovery or transitional campuses for long-term public benefit.
Slava and his team are on track to build the first pilot project – a two-building campus serving about 15 families (50 residents) in Vorzel city in the Bucha district, just 30 minutes north of Kyiv, Ukraine – sometime in early/mid 2023. As of the recording in mid-November, they raised 20% of the total $1 million development budget. In this episode, we learn more about the pilot project, the design philosophy of ‘the system of living’, in addition to Slava’s personal experiences of serving as a volunteer in many capacities near the frontlines of the ongoing war, all while balancing his professional life of being an architect.