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Mixed Reactions to Kyiv's New ‘Theater on Podil’

Source: YouTube.

Source: Aleksandr Kozachenko, YouTube.

On Tuesday, construction workers unveiled the new “Kyiv Dramatic Theater on Podil” on Andriyivskyy Descent, one of the oldest streets in the city. Onlookers greeted the reconstructed theater, which had been fallen into disrepair over the last two decades, with mixed reactions: some applauded and cheered the design while others criticized its modern appearance and chanted “shame!” as workers lifted a screen covering the building's facade.

The reconstruction project, which began in 2015 and is being financed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's Roshen company, started as a charitable cause for the president's wife, Marina. Yuriy Sak, a public relations officer and one of the theater's actors, told journalists at the unveiling that a member of the theater's acting company is “on good terms” with Marina Petroshenko: “They were able to arrange a deal. They just explained to them straightforwardly: unless a private investor comes, it's never going to be finished. Never, because people will keep stealing money. This is the reality of our times. Once a private investor comes in, you get a fence, you get security, things are getting done, nobody's stealing nothing. A year and a half later [it's done].”

The old theater had become dilapidated and exposed to the elements; though the inside structure of the building remained intact, construction workers rebuilt much of the rest of the theater, Sak said: “For 20 years, it's been crumbling down. It was shit,” Sak said. “And now we have something to be proud of.”

The theater was originally supposed to be built in the style of other buildings on Andriyivskyy Descent, but Oleg Drozdov, the project's Kharkiv-born architect, ultimately took the building in a different direction. The theater's supporters say it's time to take Kyiv's architecture into the 21st century.  Sak told journalists that the building, which is equipped with infrastructure for people with disabilities, will have a modern stage and state-of-the art lighting equipment. “If you're building a theater in 2016, let's build a cool one. Build something so that when people come to Ukraine, they say ‘you gotta go and see that.'”

But critics say the building's modern style, including its light brown brick and black metal split-level facade, is incongruous with the street's historical architecture. Kyiv resident Yaroslav Emelyanenko told TV station 112:

Пока шло строительство, все были убеждены, что фасад временный, “монтажный”. Но подходит время открытия и занавес приподняли. Оказалось, что здание театра, расположенного в сердце старинного Киева после реконструкции планируется запустить в таком виде. То, что мы сегодня увидели – это дизайн крематория, промышленной вентиляционной системы. Или 1-2 блоков ЧАЭС, которые советские инженеры и архитекторы также реализовали с помощью чёрных кубических строений.

While it was under construction, everyone was sure that the facade was temporary, for “assembly.” But the opening is here and the curtain has been lifted. As it turns out, the theater building, positioned in the heart of old Kyiv, was supposed to be built in this style. What we saw today – it's the design of a crematorium, of an industrial ventilation system. Or the first and second blocks of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Station, which Soviet engineers and architects also built with the help of black cubic structures.

Critics took to social media, using the hashtag #ТеатрНаПодолі to express their discontent.

The sarcophagus over the Chernobyl reactor looks nicer than #театрНаПодолі.

A “Theater on Podil” parody Twitter account, tweeted out images comparing the theater to other structures.

I want to introduce you to my younger brother. It's not a theater, but everything's still ahead of him#театрНаПодолі

And this is my cousin, who lives in the U.S. #театрНаПодолі

A similar parody account on Instagram posted photoshopped pictures of the theater.

“The unique original” vs. “the pathetic copy”

The theater is scheduled to open in time for “Kyiv Day,” the capital city's titular holiday that is celebrated on the last weekend in May.

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