Ones to Watch

Dispatch from Ukraine

Anna Carnick

5 Ukrainian studios “tell our story to the world through design.”

 

“To resist, we must be fearless in how we act, speak, and create.”

—Victoria Yakusha, Ukrainian designer and architect

 

Like their fellow citizens, Ukrainian designers and architects are responding to the intensifying war in their homeland with perseverance and resolve. We reached out to multiple studios—some who remain in Ukraine and some working abroad—to learn more about how we can best support the Ukrainian design community now.

Across the board, they tell us that Russian forces are targeting Ukrainians heritage and identity as part of Putins larger attempt to deny Ukraines right to sovereignty. As a form of resistance and show of solidarity, allies are asked to familiarize themselves with Ukraines rich creative culture—listening to, learning from, and engaging Ukrainian creatives at this crucial historical moment. Read on for more in their own words.

 

1. Bogdanova Bureau

Bogdanova Bureau; Photo by Roman Pashkovskiy

Please tell us a bit about your practice.

Bogdanova Bureau was founded in 2018. Our company concentrates on architecture and design for residential spaces, beauty studios, and retail. We also art direct and create product design. We design our projects according to a philosophy of sustainable luxury, which centers on a responsible and caring attitude to everything: the team, clients, cultural heritage, and natural resources.

Our office is located in the very heart of Kyiv. We moved there about half a year before the war started. After 24 February, when Russia invaded Ukraine, some of us remained in Kyiv, and one of our colleagues went to serve the Ukrainian army. The majority of Bogdanova Bureau managed to evacuate outside the country. Now our team members temporarily stay in Poland, France, and Switzerland. Thanks to our experience working remotely during the Covid lockdown, we are a well-coordinated team. We are continuing our work and moving forward to do the things that we can do best of all: To withstand, to support those who remained to protect our homeland, to pay taxes and help the economy of our country. Recently we signed two projects abroad and continue working on our Ukrainian projects, which brave owners are ready to proceed with.

Bogdanova Bureau’s new office in the center of Kyiv. The team designed the space during Covid, and moved in just 6 months prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Photos by Yevhenii Avramenko

What would you most like to say to the international design community at this moment?

We would like to encourage the international design community to explore Ukrainian design and culture. We have outstanding contemporary design brands, like Noom, OLK Manufactory, Faina, Ryntovt Design, Woo, Ruda Studio, Makhno Products, and Tasha Oro, among others.

Russia wants not only to conquer Ukrainian territory, but also to diminish our identity. They want to appropriate our heritage, cut our roots, and erase our national identity. It is a crucial point for us to preserve our culture, our modern vision, and defend our right to be an independent country with an independent culture, not someones colony. That’s why we appeal to the international design community to learn more about Ukraine.

Bogdanova Bureau’s Kyiv office, photographed prior to the invasion. Through “lonely windows, it eyes the city, in which several times a day, it is torn apart by sirens and explosions.” Photos by Yevhenii Avramenko

How can the global design community best support the people of Ukraine right now?

It is important for us to remain visible, so we are grateful to every design media outlet, editor, and journalist who features Ukrainian design and architecture and raises their voice against the war.

We also appreciate international design studios that hire Ukrainian professionals in different countries. It is valuable support.

 

2. Victoria Yakusha, FAINA and Yakusha Studio

Victoria Yakusha, founder of FAINA and Yakusha Studio; Photo courtesy of the designer

Tell us about your practice and what you’re currently working on.

Ukrainian culture is abundant, ancient. Unfortunately, it is not very well known in the world. We tell our story to the world through design.

Our work at FAINA and FAINA Gallery consists of furniture and decor projects, with a focus on reconnection to the earth, to our roots. In June, we launched a limited edition collection, the first works I have created since February. The collection is dedicated to the connection that we Ukrainians have to our land. Our country has never been just a territory for us; it is our source of power. Each object has a living soul—made by Ukrainian artisans, with the use of ancient Ukrainian techniques.

Victoria Yakusha’s new collection, Stepping on Ukrainian Soil, debuted at Design Miami/Basel  2022; Photo by Tijs Vervecken

Yakusha Studio specializes in architecture. In April, Yakusha started working on the redevelopment of Chernihiv, one of the oldest Ukrainian cities, which was heavily damaged by the Russian army. It is located near the Belarusian border and has been shelled from the very beginning. This land is unique, with a rich cultural heritage and ecological potential. So this project is very close to my heart.

As an architect, I believe cities should be rebuilt holistically. The DNA of a city, the unique spirit of the land, is always the core, and the task of an architect is to find it, to feel the land. We analyzed the city’s destruction, its safety, and heritage. Many volunteers from different areas joined the project. The concept we developed is “Chernihiv: A Sustainable City.” It is about the sustainable, persisting spirit—of the people there as well as of the local culture, with architecture of the 11th and 13th centuries, the Cossack period, Ukrainian modernism.

 FAINA’s Soniah Collection; Photo courtesy of the designer

What would you most like to say to the international design community?

Genocide is taking place in Ukraine every single day. Perhaps many are tired of the news. Tired of worrying and feeling helpless. People try to hide these emotions in a far-off corner and dismiss them. But we, Ukrainians, cannot do that. Because we are being killed.

A tragedy like September 11th is happening every week in Ukraine. Russians destroy physically, destroy culturally, try to appropriate history and suppress identity. The whole creative industry is having a particularly hard time with this because our strength is in our sensitivity, and right now this sensibility is overwhelming… But we, Ukrainians, have huge power inside, and all our creativity will result in a beautiful outpouring for a brighter future for sure.

Now it is important to keep up support; this is your opportunity to fight for light in this world. If in broad daylight, in the center of Europe, people are constantly being killed by rockets and cities are being destroyed, then surely something is wrong with the world if it remains silent.

Silence condones missile strikes on a mall, a hospital, a city center full of civilians, children. Silence qualifies constant bombing of sown fields so that we cannot collect harvest as “normal.” 

To resist, we must be fearless in how we act, speak, and create. Fear leads to darkness.

From left: The Volyk bench and Duzhyi stool from Yakusha’s new limited collection, Stepping on Ukrainian Soil | Right: Ztista Table and Toptun Chairs. Photos courtesy of FAINA

How can the global design community best support the people of Ukraine right now?

There are a lot of ways to donate to the Ukrainian Armed Forces or other institutions in need. At FAINA, we support museums. They have been trying to secure their collections since the war started. Supporting them is our way of preserving Ukrainian identity and our history. Also, now many talented Ukrainian creatives and brands are trying to continue with their businesses. You can help by simply buying a Ukrainian-made product or collaborating with them.

 

3) Peremebli

From left: Andrii Batin, Iurii Granovskyi, and Oleksandr Manukians of Peremebli; Photos courtesy of the designers

Tell us about Peremebli.

We are three designers who came together after the invasion to collaborate on projects to support displaced Ukrainians. We believe that people forced to leave their homes should receive qualitative and comfortable furnished temporary housing, despite the lack of time and money to create it in the current context. Inhabitants of the shelters must feel respect for their dignity, despite the horrors of war.

Our approach is to create flexible, aesthetically appealing, and affordable furniture lines that can be used to equip any space in any temporary housing. We developed our solutions in April, first filling the common spaces in the Khust Hostel, a hostel for displaced people. After that, we continued to work in our Kyiv workshop to improve our solutions, also making publicly available instructions that people can use to assemble furniture using improvised materials. Now we are testing serial production, creating a small pilot batch of shelving.

Peremebli’s modular design solutions range from shelving to seating, desks, playroom elements and more, making them useful solutions for a variety of living and working needs. Photos courtesy of Peremebli

What would you most like to say to the international design community?

The ideas of Viktor Papanek and other designers who emphasize the crucial role of designers in solving urgent problems of humanity are not marginal fantasies. They are relevant here and now. And in times of war and other crises, their relevance is felt more than ever. None of us could have thought that such a war was possible in the center of Europe in the 21st century. We encourage designers to design for the real world, because you never know when it will become a design for real war. Make your own contribution to global open design legacy, to making this world a safer and more comfortable place.

Peremebli has devised designs for simple furniture for temporary housing, which displaced persons can easily assemble using improvised materials. Image courtesy of Peremebli

How can the international design community best support the people of Ukraine right now?

The Ukrainian design environment is quite established and distinctive. This community is now actively working on solving urgent problems for Ukraine: it develops temporary housing and frameworks for the reconstruction of destroyed cities, builds clear communication between Ukraine and the world, holds expert discussions and meet-ups, supports the economy, continuing to produce and export quality goods and services. Support from the global design community will enable us to do this even more effectively.

You can support design initiatives financially. You can implement our open solutions and give feedback. You can join discussions and support with expertise. You can buy goods and services of Ukrainian designers, or just learn more about Ukraine and tell your friends about us.

 

4. Polina Moroz

Polina Moroz; Photo courtesy of the designer

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Having gained international experience in architecture and design offices in Copenhagen, New York, and Paris, I started my own practice in Paris three years ago, focusing on interior architecture and object design. Lately I have been working on new objects using bio-materials. I am in the process of building lamp prototypes with kombucha “leather.”

 Whispering House, an architectural design for a residential + performance space in Asilah, Morocco, a collaboration between Polina Moroz and Matthew Wilson. Images courtesy of Polina Moroz

What would you most like to say to the international design community at this moment?

The war that Ukraine is currently going through is basically a decolonizing war. Like other post Soviet countries, we need to rediscover and reestablish Ukrainian culture, which was appropriated and silenced by Russia for decades if not centuries and therefore remained largely unknown in the West. So this is a good time to discover Ukraine’s rich culture, traditions, vernacular building techniques, crafts, etc.

Moroz’s Maremata Lamp in oxidized bronze; Photo courtesy of the designer

How can the global design community best support the people of Ukraine right now?

Inviting Ukrainians to participate in your initiatives and to collaborate on projects is mutually enriching and a huge support too—as most artists and creators lost their jobs and production means with the war.

 

5. Sasha Topolnytska

Sasha Topolnytska and Bow, a soft sculpture designed for her Farmmm children’s collection. Photos courtesy of the designer

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you’re presently working on.

I am a Ukrainian-born, Brooklyn-based designer and trained architect working across various scales of design. Prior to the Russian invasion, I started work on a major community-driven initiative focusing on improving the public space of New York City. Last year I also launched Farmmm, a playful collection of soft sculptures and toys designed to create a positive emotional experience and inclusive play. More recently my entire focus has shifted towards working on projects in support of Ukraine. One of the initiatives I am currently working on is developing a series of design workshops for Ukrainian youth in efforts to help them learn the skills that will be necessary in rebuilding Ukraine in the future.

 Topolnytska's soft Farmmm collection is designed to create positive emotional experiences and inclusive play. Photos courtesy of the designer

What would you most like to say to the international design community at this moment? And how can the global design community best support the people of Ukraine?

I’ve always appreciated design’s potential to make a meaningful impact on an individual level as well as on the entire community. And in the last five months I have witnessed that design thinking can offer a tool for healing and community rebuilding even in the midst of the most desperate and dark times. That shows through the work of many Ukrainian designers, architects, and urban planners at home and abroad who convened to respond to rebuild Ukraine since the first weeks of the invasion.

One of the ways the international community can support Ukrainian people is by simply following Ukrainian designers, architects, and urban planners on social media to learn about their initiatives and needs. The majority of these designers are 100% volunteers, so there is a great need for financial support either to help them to sustain as individuals or help them to realize their projects. The help can also be offered through free consultations or simply actively sharing their work and stories on social media to help them to gain more exposure. Also, following Ukrainian designers can be very informative and educational on Ukrainian culture, which is so important to celebrate right now.◆

 

Our sincere thanks to all the designers and architects featured here for their participation. You can read about five additional, wonderful Ukrainian talents in our second Dispatch from Ukraine here. Below we've put together a brief list of designer-recommended ways to support Ukrainian citizens right now:

  • Peremebli: Furniture for Temporary Housing in Ukraine
  • MetaLab
  • Kharkiv School of Architecture 
  • UNICEF Donation Drive for Ukrainian Children
  • Spend with Ukraine
  • Be An Angel
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