Ukraine: Netizens Criticize Chaotic Construction in the Nation’s Capital

Ukraine’s capital Kyiv is one of the oldest cities in Eastern Europe and home to many prominent architectural monuments. Among them are historical buildings and renowned churches, including Kyiv Pechersk Lavra monastery and St. Sophia Cathedral, recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is also the only CIS city included [ENG] into the TOP 30 greenest European cities.

In the recent years, however, chaotic construction in Kyiv’s historical center has caused heated debates both online and offline. One of the worst precedents was set in August of 2010, when Kyiv mayor had to place a ban [ENG] on the construction of a residential compound near St. Sophia, prompted by active protests of local residents and UNSECO’s threats to withdraw the site from its list.

Throughout Kyiv’s construction boom city residents have come together on many occasions to defend its historical skyline and counter the building of elite residential houses or office blocks in places of playgrounds, parks and other recreational areas. One of such instances prompted the creation of a civic initiative “Save Old Kyiv” – an NGO that received its name from a Live Journal community founded for a similar purpose.

Unfortunately, their efforts have not always been successful. A rather sad example is provided by Kyiv historian and blogger Mikhail Kalnitskiy (LJ user mik-kiev). In his 2010 post, he demonstrates [RUS] the way the new buildings have distorted the historical skyline of the Lavra Monastery that is visible from the Paton Bridge – a major point of entry into the old city from the Dnipro’s left bank:

[…] Не буду говорить о том ландшафте, который открывается сегодня из окон березняковских небоскребов (в нем на Лавру накладываются сзади многие строения). Но все же, к примеру, сооружая комплекс не столь уж высоких домов на улице Суворова, ориентировались не на жителей подобных небоскребов, а все на тот же обзор с моста Патона. А оттуда эти дома практически не влияют на панораму Лавры, чего и добивались проектировщики в 1970-е годы.
Но для их нынешних коллег не существует ограничений…
Сначала был искажен вид из левых окон. Здесь негаданно-нежданно объявилось то здание, которое выросло на Зверинецкой улице близ метро “Выдубичи” – так называемый комплекс “Триумф”. […] Никто не просчитал его видимость с моста Патона.

[…] I won’t mention today’s view from Bereznyaky [residential area] skyscrapers (from their windows numerous buildings overlie Lavra’s silhouette). Nevertheless, when erecting the set of not-so-tall buildings on Suvorov street, [they] didn’t focus on the residents of such skyscrapers, but on the view from the Paton Bridge. And from there the buildings practically do not affect Lavra’s panorama, which was the goal of the 1970s architects.

But their present-day colleagues know no limits…

The view from the left was ruined first. Here, suddenly, the so-called complex “Triumph” appeared, springing up from Zverynetska street next to metro station Vydubychi. […] Nobody had considered the way it would look from the Paton Bridge.

View of the "Triumph" complex from the Paton Bridge - photo by Mikhail Kalnitskiy

View of the ‘Triumph’ complex from the Paton Bridge – photo by Mikhail Kalnitskiy

He continues:

После того, как пропала охота смотреть с моста Патона налево, пришел черед и правой стороны, где царила Лавра. Теперь в силуэт нашего главного монастыря врезалась неуклюжая новостройка, о чем уже многие писали. […]
Большее архитектурное хамство трудно себе представить…

After [you] would have lost the desire to look left from the Paton Bridge, it was the turn of [your] view of Lavra to the right. Now a clumsy new building cuts through the silhouette of the monastery, which many have already written about. […]

It is hard to imagine a bigger architectural impudence…

A new residential building interferes with Lavra skyline - photo by Mikhail Kalnitskiy

A new residential building interferes with Lavra skyline – photo by Mikhail Kalnitskiy

At the end of his post, Kalnitskiy warns [RUS] of construction plans that would further distort Lavra’s historical silhouette.

The creators of the building pictured above have been included into Save Old Kyiv’s black list [UKR, RUS] of persons behind construction projects of questionable legality and/or architectural value. The NGO has also created an interactive map with sites where such construction is underway or has been planned. Save Old Kyiv’s current watch list [UKR] includes more than 30 hotspots.

Among them is an attempt to fit a four-floor business and shopping complex between two old buildings near metro station Teatralna. On her blog Neeka’s Backlog, Veronica Khokhlova writes [ENG]:

The construction site over Teatralna metro station (and across the street from the Russian Drama Theater) is very much alive again, despite various attempts to resist this odious project – and despite common sense.

There used to be a little area with flowers in front of the apartment building there – nothing special, but it's hard not to think of it as an absolutely crucial space now that it's gone – and gone in such a grotesque manner.

Construction site near metro station Teatralna - photo by Veronica Khokhlova

Construction site near metro station Teatralna – photo by Veronica Khokhlova

She also links to a photo from the Feb. 1 protest against the construction.

Apart from the odious construction projects, many bloggers point out other painful issues connected with the city’s development, such as irresponsible treatment of Kyiv’s architecture or the lack of esthetic sense among city residents and authorities. Kyiv-based photographer George (LJ user gk-bang) catches the resent change on Yaroslaviv Val street on film:

Solid metal fence blocks the view of a building on Yaroslaviv Val street - photo by George

Solid metal fence blocks the view of a building on Yaroslaviv Val street – photo by George

And compares it to the older photo of the same building:

Recent view of a building on Yaroslaviv Val street - photo by George

A recent view of a building on Yaroslaviv Val street – photo by George

He writes [RUS]:

Для городского облика рейдерские разборки по поводу этого участка закончились созерцанием вот такого прекрасного цельнометаллического надёжного и долговечного забора. […] А то, понимаете, было какое-то неподобство – аккуратная ограда.

For the city’s image, the raider attacks on this site have resulted in [us] viewing this superb solid metal fence. […] Because, you see, there used to be a neat paling there – how inappropriate.

George also posts a fresh photo of the country’s central square, Maidan Nezalezhnosti – a popular place of rallies and protests – and mocks the imbalance between the scope of the ongoing renovations (the square has a few damaged tiles) and the all-encircling wooden green fence installed.

Maidan Nezalezhnosti under reconstruction - photo by George

Maidan Nezalezhnosti under reconstruction – photo by George

He writes [RUS]:

Мы шо, хельсенки какие-то, чтобы выставлять по периметру ограждение с рисункаи, графити или фото-обоями.[…] В часности радует тот масштаб работ, ради которого затеяна столь необходимая реконструкция. И, вдагонку, заведена пара уголовных дел.

Are we some sort of [Helsinki] to raise a screen with drawings, graffiti or photo images? […] In particular, what is encouraging is the scale of renovations for which such a necessary reconstruction has been initiated. And, on top of it, a few criminal cases were opened [for damaging of the state property by last year's Tax Code protesters].

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