The Reconstruction
of Ukraine

Ruination / Representation / Solidarity

A Symposium of Ideas and Strategies

9, 10, 11 September 2022 — ( online )

The reconstruction of Ukraine – carried out not only after but also during a protracted, brutal war – must entail a process of the re-assertion of Ukrainian sovereignty over the country’s built environment as well as its economic, social and cultural fabric. The process of reconstruction should be led by Ukrainian actors and Ukrainian institutions; and it should be informed by a deep knowledge and experiential grounding in Ukrainian culture, society and heritage.

Although reconstruction must be a Ukrainian-led project, it ought also to be undergirded by non-invasive but far-reaching and sustainable international support in terms of funding, expertise and shared knowledge. In this respect, solidarity is a multi-directional process. Reconstruction can usefully be informed by sensitive, empathetic, ecumenical comparisons with other places and contexts which have undergone – or are still undergoing – processes of ruination and renewal.

“The Reconstruction of Ukraine: Ruination / Representation / Solidarity” devotes particular attention to cities, architecture, art, culture and psychological trauma – but the scope of the conversations it aims to start is broader. In due course, the discussions held during the symposium may coalesce into myriad projects, initiatives and experiments undertaken by government institutions, municipalities, educational and cultural bodies and other more interstitial actors. The ambition of this symposium is to establish a platform for dialogue, facilitating communication, collaboration and constructive argument between diverse actors and initiatives.


( 9 September 2022 )

Ruination, Resistance, Shelter: Responses to the Direct Impact of War.


07:00-07:30 (EDT) / 12:00-12:30 (GMT+1) / 14:00-14:30 (GMT+3)


07:30-07:45 (EDT) / 12:30-12:45 (GMT+1) / 14:30-14:45 (GMT+3)


07:45-08:15 (EDT) / 12:45-13:15 (GMT+1) / 14:45-15:15 (GMT+3)

1. Ecocide & Urbicide

08:30-10:00 (EDT) / 13:30-15:00 (GMT+1) /15:30-17:00 (GMT+3)

This roundtable will generate a holistic discussion on the destruction unleashed by the war on Ukraine’s built and natural environment; also incorporating comparative perspectives from the Syrian and Bosnian wars.

2. Displacement & Shelter

10:00-11:30 (EDT) / 15:00-16:30 (GMT+1) / 17:00-18:30 (GMT+3)

Sites of displacement, refuge, sanctuary and exile constitute an integral part – and a precondition of – the reconstruction process. Refugee camps turn into cities; the boundaries between sites of refuge and sites of concentration, filtration and even extermination are not always stable or easily discernible; and the experiences of exile and sanctuary can also inform visions of rebuilding and reconstruction.

3. Heritage: Destruction, Salvage & Legacy

12:00-13:30 (EDT) / 17:00-18:30 (GMT+1) / 19:00-20:30 (GMT+3)

How has Ukraine’s cultural, tangible and intangible heritage been affected by war? What tools, technologies and strategies have been used to protect it? How can heritage be regulated and what is the relationship between practical concerns and ideological ones during a time of parallel “derussification” and “decolonization”?

4. Infrastructures & Superstructures

13:30-15:00 (EDT) / 18:30-20:00 (GMT+1) / 20:30-22:00 (GMT+3)

How is Ukraine’s “infrastructure” referring to energy, transport, communications and economic dimensions, among others – implicated in and impacted by war? What considerations must be borne in mind to rebuild and decolonize Ukraine’s infrastructure(s) in the war’s aftermath?

( 10 September 2022 )

Representation, Mourning, Memory: Working Through War

1. Bordering a Space - Time for Trauma, Grief, and Mourning

08:00-09:30 (EDT) / 13:00-14:30 (GMT+1) / 15:00-16:30 (GMT+3)

This panel aims at constituting a meeting ground for mental health professionals (psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, psychotherapists, art therapists) residing both inside and outside the war zone in Ukraine. Its purpose is to open a space for presentation and discussion of different perspectives and conceptualisations of trauma, with particular attention to views on grief and the process of mourning implied but not often made explicit by each trauma model. The key features of war trauma across all models are the traumatised individual’s loss of a sense of control (to various degrees) over a number of adaptive psychological functions when overwhelmed with sudden and uncontrollable, disorganising stimuli. Symptomatology includes affect- and self- dysregulation, disturbances in self-other relations, alterations in consciousness and self-perception, somatisation, and disturbances of systems of meaning, disruption of basic assumptions and beliefs. Trauma models involve different conceptualisations of traumatic temporalities that in turn determine the nature, rationale, and timing of clinical interventions. Mental health practitioners approach the challenge to constitute with the patient a “safe space” to allow for grief and for the eventual process of mourning to emerge without letting the patient be submerged by immensely disorganising psychopathology in unique and distinct ways. Building “transitional spaces” on the level of both infrastructures but also in the consulting room between “war thinking” and “civil life thinking” is a concern for both health care policy makers and clinicians. Within Ukraine, clinicians faced with the onslaught of unmediated acute trauma and traumatic grief need to find ways of building “transitional spaces” with their patients in order for subjectivity and a potential space for mourning to reemerge. Against the polarisation and extreme dichotomization of “war thinking” where one can only identify with either victim or perpetrator “civil life thinking” (and mourning) necessitate the possibility for psychic conflictuality, ambiguity, and ambivalence.

2. War and the Arts of Witness

09:30-11:00 (EDT) / 14:30-16:00 (GMT+1) / 16:30-18:00 (GMT+3)

To what degree can art convey the experience of war in the very midst of its occurrence? Even at its most powerful, does art as a form of bearing witness merely convey the immediate and momentary affects of wartime experience? Or can artists encompass the long duration and the multiple after-effects of war? To do so, the cultural producers, artists, filmmakers and writers participating in this panel employ a variety of techniques that speak to contradiction, discord, irony and hope. These recall Bertolt Brecht’s War Primer, which teaches us that the terrain of montage and the methods of fragmentation can set the foundation for forms of meditative contemplation that constitute ways of witnessing beyond the immediate.

3. The Past in Progress: Employing & Decentring

11:30-13:00 (EDT) / 16:30-18:00 (GMT+1) / 18:30-20:00 (GMT+3)

The unfolding war in Ukraine has triggered multiple discussions on historical narratives and the systems of knowledge that produce them, both in Ukraine and internationally. Circling around three “de”s – de-colonization, de-Russification, and de-Communization – these discussions have galvanized the field of history, pushing scholars to engage with difficult questions: how have we constructed stories of the past in research, teaching, and public history? What have been the consequences of our stories? How can we decenter stories of empires, whether Russian or Soviet? As historians, we see the ways that history has been deployed for violent ends, but we also see the importance of employing historical narratives in rebuilding community. Historical narratives are rebuilt after every war; the past is always present and in progress. The stories of this war will be crucial in reassembling communities in Ukraine, abroad, and on the international stage. This panel will address how people who work professionally with the past might become mediators and assistants for a society on the long path of not only getting through the war but also moving away from it.

4. Art Practice and War: Thinking About the Institution of Art and Education Through International Mutualism

13:00-14:30 (EDT) / 18:00-19:30 (GMT+1) / 20:00-21:30 (GMT+3)

This panel addresses the question of institutionality within the context of a protracted war in Ukraine. What modes of operation can academic, cultural and exhibiting institutions employ when under siege, with their constituencies facing violence on a daily basis? What forms of international “mutualism” (as opposed to mobility commons) can play a role in sustaining existing and new initiatives within Ukraine? What institutional paradigms can be developed beyond the current political languages of the art world to address emergency “go-to” modes of operation? How is it possible to construct and sustain frameworks for cooperation for the future?

( 11 September 2022 )

Solidarity, Appropriation, Justice: Generating Common Futures

1. Masterplanning & Microplanning

08:00-09:30 (EDT) / 13:00-14:30 (GMT+1) / 15:00-16:30 (GMT+3)

What is the relationship between the social, human and aesthetic-material dimensions of reconstruction? How important will the role of architects, planners and institutions be, and how will they navigate their relationship with other actors and processes? At which scales will reconstruction take place, and what tensions and complementarities will transpire between top-down, bottom-up and intermediary processes?

2. Restitutions: appropriation, expropriation, regulation

09:30-11:00 (EDT) / 14:30-16:00 (GMT+1) / 16:30-18:00 (GMT+3)

What is the political economy of the reconstruction process? Will land nationalisation be necessary? How will Ukraine pay off its international debt, and what are the prospects for its cancellation? What mechanisms are in place to regulate the activities of profit-driven actors? How can reconstruction contribute to righting historical wrongs and to generating a common future for Ukraine?

3. Reconciliation & Retribution

11:30-13:00 (EDT) / 16:30-18:00 (GMT+1) / 18:30-20:00 (GMT+3)

What landscapes of transitional justice are transpiring in and for Ukraine? How will this impact the built, social and political fabric of the country? What changes will be made to the Ukrainian legal system to accommodate these demands, and how might this have far-reaching global effects on international law?

4. Building Initiatives for the Future

13:00-14:30 (EDT) / 18:00-19:30 (GMT+1) / 20:00-21:30 (GMT+3)

A conversation between representatives of multi-disciplinary initiatives on reconstruction located in Ukraine and overseas.

Organised by

Center for Urban History, Lviv; Center for Urban Studies, Kyiv National University of Construction and Architecture; Re-Start Ukraine; University College London; Urban Forms Center, Kharkiv; Yale University, New Haven; Visual Culture Research Center, Kyiv

The photographs illustrating this website are taken by Vitya Glushchenko, documenting his work on grassroots reconstruction initiatives in Ukraine. Find out more about these initiatives and how to support them here.

Ukraine / 2022