Dezeen Magazine

City Hall building in Kharkiv

Ukraine invasion leading to "barbaric destruction of architectural heritage"

Conservation group Docomomo and UNESCO have said they are "deeply concerned" about the destruction of heritage buildings in Kharkiv following the invasion by Russia.

In a post written from the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, an unnamed member of international conservation group Docomomo explained how the city's buildings were being destroyed as Russian troops occupy the city.

"This is not only a humanitarian catastrophe, not only a war crime, but also the barbaric destruction of architectural heritage of Ukrainian cities, our memory and culture," the Docomomo post said.

"At least 30 listed heritage sites have been destroyed or seriously damaged"

The city in eastern Ukraine has been heavily bombarded by Russian troops, with buildings including an opera house, concert hall and government offices reportedly hit by shells. In response, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has said that the attacks are war crimes.

The Docomomo team member believes that "at least 30 listed heritage sites have been destroyed or seriously damaged" in the city.

Palace of Labor in Kharkiv
Numerous buildings in Kharkiv have been damaged including the Palace of Labor (above) and the City Hall (top)

Buildings of numerous architectural styles are being destroyed, damaged, or are under threat, including the constructivist Derzhprom complex.

"Kharkiv was called the capital of Ukrainian constructivism. It is here the best objects of interwar modernism [are located]," the post said. "For example, the famous Derzhprom. But, in addition to this, the city has many heritage objects of local and national significance from other historical periods."

"For example, yesterday a monument of neoclassicism, the Assumption Cathedral, and the object of 1914 – the Palace of Labor, were vastly bombed," it continued.

"UNESCO is gravely concerned"

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) also expressed its concern over the destruction in Kharkiv, which is a UNESCO Creative City for Music.

"UNESCO is gravely concerned with the damages incurred by the city of Kharkiv, UNESCO Creative City for Music," said the organisation in a statement.

As Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine, which began on 24 February, UNESCO also demanded the "immediate cessation of attacks on civilian facilities, such as schools, universities, memorial sites, cultural and communication infrastructures".

"UNESCO underlines the obligations of international humanitarian law, notably the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two (1954 and 1999) Protocols, to refrain from inflicting damage to cultural property, and condemns all attacks and damage to cultural heritage in all its forms in Ukraine," said the organisation.

Since the invasion began, numerous architects, designers and cultural organisations have shown solidarity with Ukraine. Designers have created illustrations to show solidarity with the country.

In response, numerous major architecture studios, including UK studios Zaha Hadid Architects and Foster + Partners, and Dutch studio MVRDV, have withdrawn from working in Russia.

The photography is by Docomomo Ukraine.