08 June, 2023

INURA 2023 - Kryvets and Carr talk about reconstrution in Kyiv - Part I

Dr. Olga Kryvets, Dept Geography & Spatial Planning, University of Luxembourg delivering her statement on Kyiv reconstruction at the 31st conference of the International Network of Urban Research and Action, 2023 in Zurich.

Last week, Kryvets and Carr attended the 31st conference of the International Network of Urban Research and Action (INURA), 2023 in Zurich
. During the public panels held at the Rote Fabrik, Kryvets joined Dr. Tammy Wong (Osaka Metropolitan University, Japan); Prof. Dr. Jorge Peña Díaz (CUJAE, Cuba), and Dr. Alokananda Mukherjee (Jadavpur University, India) on a panel entitled, “Crises and urban action” chaired by Prof. Dr. Christian Schmid, (D-ARCH, ETH Zurich).

Kryvet's statement, co-written with Carr and entitled, "From Maidan to resilient urban futures" is printed here.

"Good evening everyone. Hello, my name is Olga Kryvets.

Before the full-scale invasion began, I was the Head of the Patent and License Department at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, where it was my job to promote technology. I was also a researcher for the interdisciplinary think tank for socio-economic well-being and mental health. 

I have a PhD in economic and social geography, and it is also relevant to mention that I was also at Maidan 10 years ago. At that time, I was working with engineers in a scientific laboratory and together my colleagues and I came to support the students refusing the dictatorial policies of Kremlin-friendly Yanukovych, supported by his special police forces, the Berkut and the Titushky. Maidan represented the next generation of Ukrainians absolutely refusing to be subjugated to the criminal networks of corruption, and insisting on nothing less than policies and strategies towards the building of institutions that characterize modern democratic society. Today, many still do not realise that Maidan was a revolution, as afterwards Ukraine was able to orient to the west, and Yanukovych and his friends were overthrown. Of course, now, Kremlin aggression has come back with unspeakable ferocity.

As many of you know, I fled Kyiv in spring of 2022. In response to the war, the EU created a framework for Temporary Protection of Ukrainians, allowing them to live and work in EU countries. Furthermore, both the Luxembourg National Research Fund and the University of Luxembourg set up a grant system, and I along with 30 other Ukrainians, joined the Faculty of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences. As someone with a PhD in economic and social geography, with an understanding of innovation ecosystems, I was paired with Connie to work look at how Amazon and Google challenge urban development and governance.

It’s a gigantic project that looks at Washington DC, Seattle, Toronto, Amsterdam, and Luxembourg. My work formed a sixth pillar of the project that looked at Kyiv, and to understand the narratives around resilience and reconstruction in Kyiv, and how this is shaped by digitalization and innovation. We surveyed hundreds of documents, media reports, public speeches given by Ukrainian mayors, as well as the President of Ukraine. We also interviewed urban planners, architects, representatives from NGOs and international organizations involved in damage assessment, reconstruction, urban planning and development. 

Our research topic is unique because we are studying cities not after the war, but during it. The war is happening right now in Ukraine. Right now there are heavy battles for Ukrainian cities and villages. Massive missile attacks from the air, sea, and land on cities, including Kyiv, have resumed. Unfortunately, not only the military, but also civilians are being killed. Currently, these attacks are mostly carried out against residential buildings and less often against infrastructure. The rocket attacks are carried out at 2 am and 4 am to keep the population on their toes. People cannot sleep. They become very nervous.

The blackout period in Ukraine was also a challenge for us too. It was during this period that we started conducting interviews with experts, and at that time in Ukraine there was only 2 hours of electricity a day. Our experts got in touch from the unbreakable spaces (punkty nezlamnosti), from offices with electricity, or from home, turning on the generator and the starlink. 

So far, our results reveal (1) a snapshot of the scale of reconstruction needed after the first 14 months of the war, (2) an idea of how digitalization has become essential for resilience and (3) the diverse set of imagined futures unfolding at different spatial and temporal scales.

Assessing the scale of damage Ukraine-wide at any one point of time is difficult as there are various sources, that provide assessments at different points in time, and because reconstruction is already in process, moving at different speeds and reflecting a multitude of priorities: By August 2022 damage was recorded including over 300 bridges, 24,000 km of roads, 19 airports, 15,300 high-rise buildings, 116,000 houses, 390 businesses, 43,700 units of agricultural machinery, 2000 shops, over 500 administrative buildings, over 100,000 cars, 764 kindergartens, 934 medical facilities, 634 cultural buildings. At that time, drone photography revealed damage in cites at sites of commerce, gastronomy, education, sports facilities, churches, hotels, recycling, water and heating infrastructure, and housing.

According to Kyiv School of Economics damage to infrastructure, by December 2022 was valued at 137.8 billion Dollars. By February 2023, estimates reached 700 billion, and this did not include investments that would be needed for business growth.

While there were over 18,000 reports of damage inside Kyiv, including 6000 buildings, the city of Kyiv itself - which was not overthrown - is still relatively intact inside its perimeters compared to its suburbs and other parts of the country. According to the Kyiv Regional Military Administration, 252 settlements across the Kyiv region were occupied, and many territories have since been liberated back to Ukraine, although they are now full of mines.

Of course, the government has set priorities for reconstruction, and these include energy independence, removing the land mines, providing housing for internally displaced persons, combating corruption, and European integration. We also know that big tech – Microsoft, Google and Amazon – have all won peace prizes for their contributions to resiliency during the war.

But in terms of the future of Ukrainian cities, we heard a lot of optimism among our interviewees.

First, the cities should be smart, digital. Interviewees noted that the digitalization of management processes and the creation of digital solutions have already proven necessary for resilience, and they will continue to be important instruments to improve the lives of residents, simplifying the interaction of local governments with local residents, and enhancing transparency. Such digital services include various applications, but also open data, open maps and other sources of open information that can help local governments be more transparent, more open and understandable to local residents. 

Second, they should be cities with a vision and concept. Interviewees noted that an important condition for urban development was the availability of master development plans, restoring too the synergy between all actors at the local level, and reflecting local needs, such as housing, which was cited by many interviewees as a primary need because of the mass internal displacement. But it was also often said that the new cities will be cities of a new generation, of a new type: green and democratic. 

Third, they should be cities for the communities who live in them. Many said that the future cities should be for the residents. As post-war cities, they need to be safe cities, energy-efficient cities, and energy-independent cities. Of course, these visions reflect immediate needs, such as access to heat, electricity, and the internet. And hence Ukrainian cities are now characterized by personal generators, Starlink receivers and smart phone access to real time information. But it also reflected the need to build long term systems of resilience against further aggression. If we recall the revolution in 2014, we know that this conflict is ongoing.

Our interviewees were very aware of the diversity of needs across the different cities of Ukraine. There might be, for example, new cities that are symbolic cities, such as Kherson, Mariupol or Bakhmut. They also recognized that it makes no sense to restore cities to the state they were before. They will need to reflect the new situation: with the closed border, and with the war.

In this context, many interviewees also saw the new cities as opportunities to, fourth, rebuild with love and solidarity (Yes, we are reminded of Tammy’s work on Hong Kong!). Many dreamed of building comfortable cities; welcoming, inclusive, and sustainable cities in the environmental sense; and cities that reflected of belonging to the European community.

They will be better than they have been so far. …built on the motivation that is there now.



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