Transition as Condition: Ukraine Research- Urbanism, Environment, Infrastructure

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has resulted in the displacement of millions of Ukrainians and the destruction of housing, neighborhoods, urban spaces, rural landscapes, physical and social infrastructure, and monuments and cultural institutions. This course investigates the history and future of the built environment in Ukraine and explores potential approaches to reconstruction informed by local conditions and histories. Developed in collaboration with the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies and the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard, the course will examine the housing typologies, urban spaces, rural landscapes, and infrastructures that emerged in Ukraine in the context of Russian Imperial, Soviet, and post-Soviet planning policies and practices. This historical research will inform the exploration of sustainable approaches to preservation, construction, and reconstruction (including major reconstruction efforts outside the region, in Japan and elsewhere). Working closely with local partners in Ukraine – architects, urban and environmental historians, planners, designers – students will analyze specific sites and documents, maps, plans, photos, films, etc. from a range of digital and physical archives.

The course will begin with an examination of current conditions, issues, and debates in Ukraine: the war, destruction, cultural heritage, sustainability, climate change, among others; as well as the issues that Ukraine will need to address as it plans reconstruction. Including examination of major reconstruction efforts elsewhere, Japan in particular. Experts from the region will contribute to these discussions.

This engagement with current issues and perspectives will be followed by historical analysis of the material fabric of the built environment as well as physical and social infrastructure (energy, transportation, industry, hydrological systems, housing, schools, hospitals, etc.) in addition to monuments and cultural institutions. Students will work in groups (using digital historical and contemporary maps and other documents) to examine, map and diagram systems, major planning projects, rural-urban relationships, etc., at different scales and key moments. Analyses/mappings will be discussed in class and will constitute collective ‘base documents’ for more closely focused site-based research projects.

In the second half of the semester, students will apply the knowledge produced in the first part of the course to specific sites. They will explore potential approaches to reconstruction and sustainable development (including adaptation, revision, restoration, etc.) of social housing, neighborhoods, infrastructure, public space, informed by local conditions and histories.

Learning Objectives:
By the end of this course, students will have developed their abilities to:
     • explore various modes of urban spatial analysis
     • incorporate archival materials, reports, and map-based data into design research projects
     • respond critically to primary and secondary materials, and effectively use them in crafting an independent research projects
     • connect issues in today’s cities to larger historical debates about modernization, urbanization, housing, governance, and cultural preservation