Determined to stay in Ukraine, the Kharkiv School of Architecture has relocated across the country to Lviv. Robert Mull talks to the school’s co-founder Oleg Drozdov and Deputy Chancellor Iryna Matsevko about the battle for future architects and engineers in the country and the most effective way for the UK construction industry to offer its support.


With the outbreak of war, the Kharkiv School of Architecture made the decision to continue its programmes for as long as possible. The school has relocated its staff and students over 1,000 kilometres from Kharkiv to the relative safety of Lviv, a city located 70 kilometres from the Polish border in western Ukraine.

Lviv has seen an influx of refugees, with emergency shelters and field hospitals set up across the city, and the Kharkiv School of Architecture is working to establish new premises and teaching infrastructure. The school is seeking short- and long-term support for its tutors and students to empower them to address the challenges of war and reconstruction concerns.

Architecture Today will be holding a live webinar with Kharkiv School of Architecture at 10.00am on Thursday 21 April to find out how the UK architectural community can support architectural education and intelligent reconstruction in Ukraine. The Kharkiv School of Architecture has also launched a fundraising campaign to raise funds so it can continue teaching — donate here.

Robert Mull, Professor of Architecture and Design at the University of Brighton, speaks to the school’s co-founder Oleg Drozdov and Deputy Vice Chancellor Iryna Matsevko about how the UK architectural and construction industry can help – and prevent the “professional colonisation” they fear.

Robert Mull Tell us a little about your situation and how the international architectural community can give you support.

Oleg Drozdov We have moved from Kharkiv to the other side of the country; to temporary premises in Lviv in the west of Ukraine. Our agenda, which we established after the revolution, is more relevant now than ever. We have to increase our knowledge, capacity and expertise on urban matters. We want to create a guidebook for post-war Ukraine cities.

We are looking at international collaboration, with European institutions or academic partners. For example, the urban design apartment at MIT has spent years looking at the post-industrial environment and specifically cities in a post- Soviet Union environment. And we have to organise premises and staff. Colleagues and students are ready to come back to Ukraine from abroad.

Iryna Matsevko We need intellectual support from experts who can make an impact on our programme. And we need financial support. And it’s very important for us to bring our students and teachers here. If we don’t do this, it could be a disaster for the school.

Robert Mull I think one of the things that is so important is that students who have left the country are now coming back. I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding in terms of the best way to give support. The important thing is to find ways of supporting the school in its new location.

Oleg Drozdov For us, for our mission, it’s super important to be able to corral architectural knowledge and power. Because at the moment many of our professionals are spread throughout Europe. Offices and institutions are offering positions to Ukrainian students. But it’s our goal to consolidate this professional power in Ukraine. If we don’t do that, I think we will face some kind of new professional colonisation. Ukraine will be left without its professional power. In the very near future we will need a lot of engineers and architects.

Robert Mull That was the founding message of the school – to generate a specific capacity and culture, and to be able to reform and enrich the existing culture, both professional and academic. And it’s urgent. It’s more urgent now than ever at any point in the school’s history to support it in Ukraine and not to draw away its energy, its power, its history and its DNA.

Oleg Drozdov We have gaps in our academic programme because, due to different circumstances, some of our teachers are unable to continue with their work. So we need help with teaching. And we need financial support. Ukraine still has the capacity to produce the things that we need – 3D printers, furniture, materials, projectors, computers, tools – but we need money to be able to buy them. We have been given space for free but we need money to pay for things like electricity and cleaning. And we need money for students. We have several students who cannot cover the tuition fees.

Iryna Matsevko In the short term, we need to adjust our programme to the new reality and to teach our students how to deal with the situation we have now. We have this project to create a think tank to look at ways to deal with the destroyed city after the war.

We need to focus our thoughts and then, for sure, we will need international experts and teachers to help. Part of this will be an online public programme of discussions, lectures, presentations on topics, which are really urgent – not just for architects but for wider audiences. Because for us, it’s very important to educate not only architects, but society in general, in how to face this new reality and think in a new way.

Robert Mull The thing that that has really struck me from our conversations is the opportunity you have described for the reconstruction of Ukrainian cities to be a local exemplar for global change. I think there is immense wariness and dissatisfaction with the way in which the professions are dealing with global challenges and the challenge you’ve given yourself is extraordinarily powerful within the global conversation.