Dezeen Magazine

Re:Ukraine refugee village by Balbek Bureau

Ukrainian president tasks Balbek Bureau with building temporary housing near Kyiv

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has met with Balbek Bureau to discuss the architecture studio constructing a temporary shelter complex near Kyiv to house locals while their homes are being rebuilt following Russia's invasion.

Located between the cities of Bucha and Irpin, the short-term housing scheme is set to accommodate between 1,300 or 5,000 people left dispossessed in the region, which was heavily damaged by Russian troops as they attempted to storm the Ukrainian capital.


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Balbek Bureau met with president Zelensky (above) to discuss building a shelter complex (top)

The complex could be constructed within four to five months, according to Balbek Bureau founder Slava Balbek, based on a blueprint for a modular refugee village developed by his studio in response to the invasion.

"In Bucha, 10 or 15 per cent of buildings are totally destroyed," Balbek told Dezeen. "But some of them just need to be repaired slightly or repainted, their glazing fixed and then people can come back to their own homes."

Zelensky's reconstruction plan

Composed of modular timber-framed boxes, the studio's Re:Ukraine housing scheme was originally designed to offer "dignified" long-term accommodation for those who have fled to the relative safety of western Ukraine.

But now that Russian troops have retreated from the capital, Zelensky called for the project to be realised closer to the bombed cities and villages during a meeting on Ukraine's reconstruction, which brought together local authorities and architecture practices with representatives of the Ministry of Infrastructure.

"In the government meeting with the president, he said let's do it somewhere near Bucha," Balbek explained. "People don't want to travel 500 kilometres away from their homes. They're not afraid of bombing."

"Actually, they're thinking of doing the renovation themselves so they want to be within walking distance of their actual homes, near their neighbours and the crops on their field."

The shelter's design is based on a refugee village blueprint by Balbek Bureau

The temporary housing scheme is among a number of projects that will be realised as part of the first stage of Zelensky's reconstruction plan, which was announced during a daily address to the nation earlier this month.

"Today, I set a task to provide temporary housing to all our IDPs [internally displaced people] as the first stage – giving those whose houses were destroyed by the war temporary housing until we rebuild their homes, or until people receive compensation in square metres or money," he said.

"In the second stage, we will restore what the occupiers tried to destroy, all affected cities and communities."

Shelter could also offer temporary workspaces

Currently, Balbek Bureau is finalising the master plan for the shelter and speaking to local mayors and politicians to finalise the location and size of the project, which Balbek hopes will be decided this week.

Ultimately, he says, the aim is to create the fastest possible turnover rate rather than encouraging long-term stays.

"Less is better because if you roll over your space, then another family will get the spot," Balbek said.

"And then they will live there for three or four months and then they can go back to their homes. And afterwards, a construction worker can live there or it can be used as a military outpost."

Balbek Bureau is also in talks with local governments about adapting the Re:Ukraine blueprint to provide temporary office space in western Ukraine for the scores of people that have fled to this part of the country to continue working – including members of the studio's own team.

"All the accommodation and offices are fully packed with people who just moved to the western part of Ukraine," Balbek said. "So they want to build up this project to be a kind of co-working area."

Other efforts at rebuilding Ukraine that have started to take shape this month include a manifesto for the reconstruction of heavily-bombed Kharkiv, written by British architect Norman Foster.

All imagery is courtesy of Balbek Bureau.