Free the Freedom Square!

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Open Letter

To the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, the Minister of Culture of Ukraine Yevhen Nyshchuk, Kharkiv Mayor Hennadiy Kernes, and the Executive Committee of the Kharkiv City Council

 

We would like to call your attention to a troubling situation with the layout of the Freedom Square in Kharkiv.

When the monument to Lenin was taken down on the Freedom Square in September 2014, the question arose: how to rethink and redesign the square, a place highly significant for Kharkiv's visual image, a world-famous monument of the 1920s and 1930s architecture and urban planning?

The Freedom Square was designed in 1925 to house administrative buildings, as a part of a large-scale reconstruction plan for Kharkiv, the capital of Soviet Ukraine at that time. Its enormous size (to this day the square is 11,9 hectares), its unique layout that unites round and straight sections with radial streets, and the international competition for the design of its most famous building, Derzhprom, attest to the particular significance of this space as a site of cutting-edge approaches to urban planning and architecture. The Derzhprom building, completed in 1928 in the constructivist style typical of the time, was the "first Soviet skyscraper" built of concrete and glass. Until now it remains the most well-known building in Kharkiv, an emblematic and rare example of Soviet modernism in world architecture. Several other buildings constructed on the square, such as the House of Projects and the House of Cooperation (now university campuses), and the International Hotel (now Hotel Kharkiv), were also built in the constructivist style in the early 1930s; later they were refashioned to suit the Stalinist Empire style.

The Freedom Square complex is a reminder of a fleeting period of artistic freedom and active participation of Soviet architects in the world artistic process, since it is well known that Soviet constructivists actively collaborated with their colleagues from around the world, including the United States and Germany (the famous Bauhaus movement). After the war, under the influence of repressive Stalinist policies in the field of art, the buildings that made up the square's ensemble were redone, to align with the tastes of that new era. This, however, negates neither their artistic qualities, nor their significance for world architecture. What is more, the Derzhprom building has remained unchanged, a unique monument to the architecture of the 1920s, which still draws tourists and architects to Kharkiv.

The square was redesigned in 1963 to make room for a monument to Lenin. The changes being made to this space today have been brought about not only by the monument's removal: this spot is still the center of the city, constantly changing to satisfy residents' evolving needs in both everyday and civic life. Moreover, the space merits a broad discussion regarding the fate and value of the 1920-30s’ architectural legacy and about its international context.

This being said, on November 2, 2016, Kharkiv city council announced a "blitz open competition" for a new monument to be situated on Freedom Square. This competition violated the law in several ways: it was announced as charitable (the winner would not receive a prize), the type of competition was not specified (even though the character of the place calls for an international competition and an international expert jury), and the competition's call for submissions contained neither the essence of the problem to be resolved, nor the criteria by which submissions would be judged. There were no public hearings regarding the fate of this place. Just three months later, on February 3, 2017, the winning submission was announced: an 86-meter decorative column, topped by an angel with a cross, which crudely destroys the unified historical appearance of the square. This winning project has countless analogues in the world while its originality and artistic value are doubtful, to say the least. Kharkiv city residents have already called the project “odoroblo,” which in Ukrainian means “a monster.” There are also substantial grounds to conclude that the winner was pre-determined, as this very design was featured in local media as early as in November 2016. Quite a few experts and ordinary Kharkovites believe that there is no need in this monument at all. The decision elicited mass protest from residents, as well as lawsuits.

We see this situation of monument mania as a threat to Kharkiv's historical environment, a manifestation of unprofessionalism, corruption, and a blatant lack of consideration for the interests of the residents of the city. We therefore demand:

  • That the jury's 3 February 2017 decision be revoked;
     
  • That public hearings on the future of Freedom Square's architecture and layout be convened and that representatives of expert communities and the public be ensured free access to them;
     
  • That an open international competition with an international jury be organized. The call for submissions should be developed in collaboration with international experts, taking into account the place of Freedom Square in city’s planning and the needs of Kharkovites who make use of this space.
     
  • That, the preservation of Freedom Square and its historic complex of buildings, a renown monument of urban planning and architecture, be promoted.

We ask that you pay close attention to the infractions listed in this letter and use all leverage your position allows for to promote as open and transparent decision-making process regarding the future of the Freedom Square in Kharkiv as possible.

Sincerely,

Serhii Zhadan, Ph.D. in Philology, novelist

Yaroslav Hrytsak, Dr. habil. in History, Professor, Ukrainian Catholic University, Lviv

Tatiana Zhurzhenko, Research Director of Ukraine in European Dialogue Program, IWM – Institute for Human Sciences, Vienna

Volodymyr Kravchenko, Dr. habil. in History, Director of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies

Andreas Kappeler, Dr. habil., Prof. Emeritus of History, University of Vienna, Austria

Karl Schlögel, Dr. habil., historian and public intellectual, Prof. Emeritus, European University Viadrina, Frankfurt/Oder

Mykola Riabchuk, Ph.D. in Political Ptudies, researcher at the Institute of Political and Ethnonational Studies of the Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, novelist, essayist

Andrii Kurkov, novelist

Natalka Sniadanko, novelist, journalist, translator

Mykhailo Krasikov, Ph.D. in Philology, member of the Council of Cultural Heritage Preservation in Kharkiv region, director of the Kharkiv branch of the Ukrainian Ethnology Center of the Institute for Arts, Folklore and Ethnology Studies, member of the International Association of Arts Researchers

Volodymyr Novhorodov, correspondent member of the Ukrainian Academy of Architecture, member of the National Union of Architects of Ukraine, ICOMOS member, Kharkiv

Gelinada Grinchenko, Dr. habil., Professor, Department of Ukrainian Studies, V.N.Karazin Kharkiv National University, Head of the Ukrainian Oral History Association

Volodymyr Lopatko, architect, member of the National Union of Architects of Ukraine, ICOMOS member, Kharkiv

Oleksiy Musiyezdov, Dr. habil. in Sociology, Associate Professor, V.N.Karazin Kharkiv National University

David Crowly, Professor, Royal College of Art, London

Adrienne Kochman, Ph.D. Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Ioulia Shukan, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University Paris Nanterre (France).

Dr. Roann Barris, Chair and Prof., Art Department, Radford University, USA

Dr. Jan Cavanaugh, Ph.D., independent art historian, specialist in restoration, Portland, USA

Juliet Koss, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Art History, Scripps College, Claremont, USA

David Elliott, PhD, Professor, curator and writer, Oxford, UK

Svitlana Shlipchenko, urban theorist, Ph.D. in Philosophy, Academic Director of the Center for Urban Studies of Kyiv Mohyla Academy

Vladyslava Osmak, lecturer, urban guide, Director of the Center for Urban Studies of Kyiv Mohyla Academy

Larysa Savytska, Dr. habil. in Arts, Professor of V.N.Karazin Kharkiv National University

Tetiana Davidich, Ph.D. in Architecture, Associate Professor of Kharkiv National University of Construction and Architecture

Ievgeniia Gubkina, architect, researcher at the Center for Urban History of East Central Europe, co-founder of the Urban Forms Center

Oleh Koval, member of the National Union of Painters of Ukraine, member of the International Association of Arts Researchers

Gevorg Avetikyan, Ph.D., IMARES Program Associate Director, European University at St. Petersburg

Mischa Gabowitsch, Ph.D., researcher at Einstein Forum, Potsdam, Deutschland

Iuliia Skubytska, historian, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Pennsylvania

Serhii Vakulenko, Ph.D. in Philology, associate Professor of H.S. Skovoroda Kharkiv National Pedagogical University, secretary of the Kharkiv Historical and Philological Society

Oleksandr Kalugin, member of the National Union of Architects of Ukraine, laureate of the State Prize in Architecture

Oleh Drozdov, chief architect of the planning bureau “Atrium”, Kharkiv

Volodymyr Shandyba, the member of the Union of Designers of Ukraine, laureate of the Yermilov Municipal Prize, Kharkiv

Oleksandr Savchuk, Ph.D. in Philosophy, specialist in cultural studies, Associate Professor of V.N.Karazin Kharkiv National University

Volodymyr Masliychuk, Ph.D. in History, doctorant at Kharkiv Academy of Culture, editor of www.historians.in.ua

Iryna Sklokina, Ph.D. in History, researcher at the Center for Urban History of East Central Europe, Lviv

Volodymyr Sklokin, Ph.D. in History, associate professor, Ukrainian Catholic University, Lviv

Yevhenia Moliar, art historian, the member of the art group DE-NE-DE

Lyzaveta German, art historian, art critic, Ph.D. Student of the National Academy of Arts and Architecture, Kyiv

Oleksandr Chepalov, Dr. habil. in Arts Studies, Professor, Kharkiv Academy of Culture

Mykhailo Ilchenko, Ph.D. in Politology, Ekaterinburg Academy of Contemporary Art, Institute of Philosophy and Law, Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Oleksandr Shekhovtsov, artist, Kharkiv

Mykhailo Popov, artist, Kharkiv

Ihor Solomadin, historian, history teacher at OChAG school, seignior lecturer, V.N.Karazin Kharkiv National University

Oleh Perehon, head of the coordinative committee, NGO “Green Front”

Olga Kazakova, PhD, art historian, Director of Institute of Modernism (Moscow), Senior Research Specialist at the Research Institute of the Theory and History of Architecture and Town Planning, (NIITIAG)

Halyna Voitsekhivska, director of V.H. Zabolotnyi State Scientific Library of Architecture and Construction

Anna Putova, historian and archivist, Central State Historical Archives of Ukraine, Kyiv

Alexei Bratochkin, Head of the Public History Center, European College of Liberal Arts in Minsk (Belarus)

Maria Silina, PhD, senior researcher, Research Institute for Theory and History of Fine Arts, Moscow, Russia, Adjoint Professor, Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada

Bohdan Motuzenko, PhD in Sociology, “Project Bureau”, Kyiv

Dimitrij Zadorin, MSc in Architecture, Urbanism and Building Sciences at Delft University of Technology; Architect/Architectural Historian

Olena Mokrousova, historian and heritage specialist, PhD in History, leading specialist of Kyiv Research and Methodology Center for Preservation, Restoration, and Use of Historical and Cultural Monuments and Nature Reserves, ICOMOS member, DO CO MO MO member

Oksana Mikheeva, Dr. habil. in History, Professor, Ukrainian Catholic University, Lviv

Tetyana Dzyadevych, Department of Slavic and Baltic Languages and Culture, University of Illinois at Chicago

Halyna Hryn, PhD, editor of "Harvard Ukrainian Studies", Ukrainian Research Institute, Harvard University

Sofia Dyak, PhD, director of the Center for Urban History of East Central Europe

Mayhill Fowler, PhD, Assistant Professor, History, Stetson University, USA

Svitlana Babenko, PhD in Sociology, Associate Professor, T. Shevchenko Kyiv National University

Christina E. Crawford, Ph.D. in Architecture, Assistant Professor of Architectural History, Emory University, Atlanta, USA

Yevhen Maslov, journalist, Kharkiv

Maria Takhtaulova,PhD in History, lecturer at the National University “Kharkiv Politechnical Institute”, coordinator of the non-government initiative “Kharkiv Toponymic Group”

Alina Zubkovych, PhD, post-doctoral researcher, Centre for Baltic and East European Studies (CBEES), Södertorn University, Stockholm

Dar’ia Hovorun, assistant lecturer, Y.Mudryi National Law University, Kharkiv

Volodymyr Kulyk, Dr. habil. in Political Science, researcher at the Institute of Political and Ethno-national Studies, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, Kyiv

Shimon Briman, historian, journalist, Israel editor of the ForumDaily (USA)

Oksana Kis, historian, anthropologist, seignior researcher, Institute of Ethnology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, the President of the Ukrainian Association for Research in Women’s History

Anton Bondarev, historian and activist, Kharkiv

Thomas Flierl, PhD, architectural historian, Bauhaus Institute of History and Theory of Architecture and City Planning, Bauhaus University Weimar

Svitlana Rybalko, Dr. habil. in Art Studies, Professor, Kharkiv State Academy of Culture

Andriy Kornev, PhD in Art Studies, Assistant Professor, Kharkiv State Academy of Design and Art, editor-in-chief of “Pro Art” newspaper

Mykhailo Minakov, Dr. Habil., Associate Professor, University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, editor-in-chief, Ideology and Politics Journal (ideopol.org); President, Foundation for Good Politics/Eastern European Analytical Group (fundgp.com)

Yulia Hasylina, stage director, head of MIST theatre, Kyiv

Mykola Tsipko, researcher, cultural studies, independent journalist

Anna Colin Lebedev, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Paris Nanterre, France

Ingo Petz, journalist and publicist, Berlin

Tom Junes, PhD, researcher, Centre for Advanced Study Sofia (Bulgaria)

Tetiana Bezruk, researcher of the contemporary Ukrainian nationalism, Kyiv

Svjatoslav Pacholkiv, PhD, seignior researcher, Institute of Jewish History in Austria, St. Pölten; lecturer at Ukrainian Catholic University, Lviv

Nadia Shevchenko, PhD in Biology, seignior researcher, Institute of Cryobiology and Cryomedicine, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

Kseniya Kudriavtseva, MA in sociology, assistant of the deputy of Kharkiv city council

Ihor Isichenko, Archbishop of Kharkiv and Poltava, Dr. habil. in Philology, Professor, V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University

Vadym Petrov, artist, member of the National Union of Artists of Ukraine, Kharkiv

Natalia Marinkovich, architect, native of Kharkiv

Iryna Feoktystova, architect, icon-painter

Kateryna Botanova, curator, cultural critic, CULTURESCAPES festival, Basel

Valentyn Starostin, historian, head of the NGO “Potik Chasu. Dnipro”, Dnipro, Ukraine

Stanislav Chepurko, architect, leading artist, Student Palace of Yaroslav Mudryi Kharkiv National University

Volodymyr Dubovyi, Dr. habil. in Physics and Mathematics, Professor, V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University

Janetta Soloviova, artist, Honorary Artist of Ukraine, Kharkiv

Natalia Stepaniuk, PhD Candidate in Political Science, University of Ottawa

Eleonora Narvselius, PhD, Associate Professor, Center for Languages and Literature (SOL), Lund University (Sweden)

Serhii Borysenko, architect, Kharkiv

Oleksandra Naryzhna, architect, head of NGO “City Reforms”

Yuriy Pavlenko, economist, volunteer, co-coordinator of Kharkiv Euromaidan, head of NGO “Ukrainian Civil Society”

Tetiana Driukova, architect, the member of the Union of Designers of Ukraine

Volodymyr Khmelnytskyi, architect, artist, Assistant Professor, H.S.Skovoroda Kharkiv National University, member of the National Union of Artists of Ukraine

Armen Kaloyan, art director of Lysenko Kharkiv National Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet

Victoria Khatiwada, architect, UK

Antonina Skydanova, PhD in history, lecturer, Kharkiv

Vasyl Riabko, musician, Kharkiv

Borys Sevastyanov, musician, Kharkiv

Svitlana Yaremchuk, senior economist, native of Kharkiv

Olga Filippova, PhD in Sociology, Assistant Professor, V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University

Dr. Philipp Meuser, Architect and Publisher (DOM Publishers), Berlin

Yuriy Plaksiev, PhD in Architecture, Professor, corresponding member of the Academy of Architecture of Ukraine, Kharkiv

Oleksandr Plaksiev, chief architect of the Architectural bureau A5, St. Petersburg

Yuriy Spasov, architect, member of the Union of Architects of Ukraine, member of the Union of Designers of Ukraine, laureate of the municipal award in architecture, Kharkiv

Volodymyr Ohloblyn, photoartist, Kharkiv

Tetiana Ostapenko, designer, artist

Klaus Nellen, Permanent Fellow emeritus, Institute for Human Sciences, Vienna

Kateryna Ponomariova, architect, Kharkiv

Volodymyr Kochmar, sculptor, Kharkiv

Filip Dykan, journalist, local historian, author of the web-site Kharkiv Antiquities http://www.starosti.com.ua

Vitaly Chernoivanenko, PhD in History, President of the Ukrainian Association for Jewish Studies, coordinator of the MA in Jewish Studies Program at Kyiv Mohyla Academy

Dmytro Ternovyi, playwright, co-founder of the Teatr na Zhukakh, Kharkiv

Karyna Piliugina, journalist, 1+1 media

Serhiy Hirik, PhD in History, senior lecturer at MA program in Jewish Studies, Kyiv Mohyla Academy, secretary of the Ukrainian Association for Jewish Studies

Olena Petrenko, PhD, lecturer at the Ruhr-University, Bochum

Maryna Voronina, PhD in History, Assistant Professor, H.S. Skovoroda Kharkiv National Pedagogical University

Nataliya Triputina, local historian, honorary worker, librarian at the O.M. Beketov Kharkiv National University of Municipal Services, laureate of D.I. Bahaliy Kharkiv Municipal Award in Local History

Mykola Katsanov, architect, member of the National Union of Architects of Ukraine, acting member of the Ukrainian branch of ICOMOS

Ihor Mykhailyn, Dr. habil. in Philology, Professor, V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University

Mykhailo Gaukhman, historian, PhD in history

Nataliya Kondel-Perminova, PhD, chair of Department of Architecture and Design, Institute of the Problems of Contemporary Art, National Academy of Arts of Ukraine

Volodymyr Farenik, PhD in Physics and Mathematics, V.N.Karazin Kharkiv National University and National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine

Andrii Domanovskyi, PhD in History, V.N.Karazin Kharkiv National University

Oleksandr Tsyhichko, architect, Kharkiv

Tanya Zaharchenko, PhD (Cantab), Research Fellow in Ukrainian Studies, University of Oslo, Norway (hometown: Kharkiv)

Markian Dobczansky, PhD, historian, Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of Toronto

Vitaly Chernetsky, PhD, Associate Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures; Director, Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies, University of Kansas; President, American Association for Ukrainian Studies

Nadia Plungian, PhD in Arts History

Anna Bronovitskaya, PhD, architectural historian, Head of Research at the Institute of Modernism (Moscow), lecturer at the Moscow Architectural School (MARSh)

John (Ivan) Jaworsky, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Waterloo, Ontario

Sarah Whitmore, PhD, Senior Lecturer, Oxford Brookes University, UK

Ivan Kozachenko, PhD in Sociology, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta, native Kharkivite

Olga Bertelsen, PhD, research fellow at the Ukrainian Research Institute, Harvard University

P.S. On February 28, 2017, the International Working Party for Documentation and Conservation of Buildings, Sites and Neighbourhoods of the Modern Movement (Docomomo International) officially supported this letter.

If you would like to add your signature to the open letter please send your request to: orysia2011@gmail.com

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