Kharkiv city centre

Ukrainian studios "need support from international clients now" to survive war

Architecture and design studios in Ukraine have told Dezeen that they desperately need work on projects abroad in order to keep running during the ongoing Russian invasion.

"We need support from international clients now," said Alexey Gulesha, co-owner of interior design studio Sivak+Partners.

"I try to spread the message that we are open to any kind of international collaboration as never before, because for us it is a question of surviving the studio and keeping our amazing team together," he told Dezeen.

"We are well experienced in international work so I hope it's just a question of time when we get enough of them to survive."

"The entire team is now out of work"

Many architecture and design studios in Ukraine have seen their projects put on hold and have walked away from projects in Russia since the invasion began on 24 February.

However, many studios still have staff in Ukraine and are attempting to continue operating despite the war, with the nation's government encouraging businesses to keep running in a bid to support the strained economy.

"Our work has been completely stopped, since the studio mainly worked on the Ukrainian market," said architect and designer Rina Lovko.

"The entire team is now out of work due to the situation," she told Dezeen.

"But from May we are planning to take on new projects. We need international projects to be able to earn, pay taxes, salaries and develop the studio."

Jolly beauty salon by Rina Lovko
Rina Lovko Studio completed a beauty salon in Kyiv shortly before the invasion began

With work at home in short supply and huge uncertainty over when it will resume, several studios told Dezeen they are crying out for commissions from foreign clients.

"Guess who wants to build a new restaurant in Ukraine where you cannot be sure where a Russian rocket or bomb will hit the next day?" asked YOD Group co-founder Dmytro Bonesko.

"No one because it is too risky. Our projects in Ukraine are frozen."

YOD Group
YOD Group co-founder Dmytro Bonesko (bottom row third from right) wants to gain international work to support his team

"We need to continue operating during the war as far as we cannot predict when it is over," Bonesko added.

"We aim to support our team, and their families, to support the Ukrainian economy and accumulate some money for our volunteering projects."

Architect Oleg Drozdov warned that the impacts on Ukraine's architecture and design scene could be long-lasting if studios are unable to find international work and staff are forced to leave the country in search of work.

"We faced a shortage of professionals even before the war"

"Multiple architecture offices in Ukraine are going through rough times because of the war Russia unleashed against Ukraine," Drozdov told Dezeen.

"There are no possibilities for investment in the biggest cities of Ukraine – Kharkiv, Kyiv, Dnipro, Odessa – not to mention occupied territories. So it's quite logical that almost all of Ukrainian offices are out of work."

"The main goal of architecture offices now is to save their teams and not to lose talented architects due to the absence of the projects," he added.

"I note that we faced a shortage of professionals even before the war and we need to understand that it will continue to deteriorate due to out-migration of Ukrainians all over the world."

Drozdov is founder of the architecture studio Drozdov & Partners and a co-founder of the Kharkiv School of Architecture. In a recent interview with Dezeen, he explained why the school is determined to stay in Ukraine despite having to flee its embattled home city.

Drozdov & Partners is one example of a Ukrainian architecture studio that has put its energy into the war effort, helping to set up quick-to-assemble emergency refugee shelters.

Another is Balbek Bureau, which has been tasked by Ukrainian president Vlodymyr Zelensky with constructing a temporary shelter complex near Kyiv.

Balbek Bureau emergency shelter proposal
Balbek Bureau is building emergency temporary housing in Ukraine

"Ukrainian projects comprised the majority of our workload, so when most of them were placed on hold, it has most definitely presented an unprecedented challenge to the bureau's operations and significantly hindered our progress," said the studio's founder Slava Balbek.

"As most of the local commercial projects remain on pause due to Russian aggression, we heavily rely on overseas projects," he told Dezeen.

"Without creativity and creation, we wither away"

Kyiv-based Ater Architects said international projects could help Ukrainians with morale as well as financial recourse.

"Our lives and careers have changed dramatically," studio founders Alex Ivasiv and Yuliya Tkachenko told Dezeen.

"We had to leave our home and all of our projects were put on hold indefinitely and remain so to this day."

"In order not to completely lose faith in ourselves and in victory, in order to help our country, we, of course, want to work!" they added. "We are creative people, this is our essence. Without creativity and creation, we wither away. Since we currently cannot do this in our own country, working abroad becomes more relevant than ever."

Bogdanova Bureau
Olga Bogdanova (fourth from right) said Ukrainian studios will deliver despite the country's situation

Olga Bogdanova, founder of residential architecture and interiors studio Bogdanova Bureau, insisted that Ukrainian studios can be trusted to deliver despite the conflict.

"We have been working on our projects in Dubai and Milan, also negotiating a few other projects in Europe," she told Dezeen. "We appreciate our clients who trust us in this difficult time. We would never let them down and work with all our passion on their projects."

"We would be happy to collaborate with creative studios and brands from all over the world," she added.

"We believe we can enrich world design more than ever before. It would be great to have a platform, an opportunity, and partners who would like to do projects together."

Earthy interiors of Faina Gallery in Antwerp
Yakusha Design recently designed a showroom in Antwerp

Victoria Yakusha, founder of multidisciplinary ecological design practice Yakusha Design and furniture and decor brand FAINA, suggested that Ukraine's widely praised response to the war is reflected in the work of its architects and designers.

"Today, as a nation, we are united by our strong spirit," she said.

"Many do not understand where it comes from. To us, the source lays in our connection to our earth, to our ancestors, to our roots. This connection is also reflected in the language of our architecture and design."

House by Makhno Studio
Makhno Studio previously designed a home with a thatched roof in Ukraine

"Anyone who chooses design in a contemporary Ukrainian style for its object also chooses a Ukrainian strong soul and invaluable talent," echoed Oleksandr Dymnich, CEO of architecture and interior design firm Makhno Studio.

"As a Ukraine-based studio, we have already demonstrated our ability to work under pressure," added Balbek. "We believe any international client will appreciate our resilience and benefit from it."