Urban Design Studio III

Three Ecologies


Kharkov Inner Periphery:

Located in the eastern Ukraine on the western edge of the Central Asian Steppes, Kharkov is of strategic historic importance, on the boundary between Europe and Asia; while modern Kharkov was founded in 1653AD as a fortress city on the border of the Russian empire, the site has a history of prior settlement for over two millennia. It lies within one of the world’s most important agricultural regions, comprising rich soils and a humid temperate climate with warm summers and cold winters. Its metropolitan region population numbers approximately 1.5 million. Between 1765 and 1869 it was the Ukrainian capitol city; and after the removal of the Capitol to Kiev its prominence remained as a financial and industrial center, while remaining as a regional government center. During the 1930′s it was central to extreme political and ethnic conflicts. With the absolute absorption of the Ukraine into the Soviet Union following World War II, Kharkov experienced significant growth within a communist-based economy. Now its future is uncertain with the break-up of the Soviet Union and return to a “free” market system. Yet it remains a major Eastern European center for education, scientific research, in addition to significant industry and cultural activity. The UD Spring 2011 Studio has been invited to explore the future of the city relative to the new opportunities for its re-development within a changing regional and global context. In particular, the older “inner periphery” of the city, between the historic center and the Soviet-era outer periphery is considered to be crucial to the next development period.

Ukraine has undergone processes of cultural fertilization provoked by massive human migrations (i.e.: Greek, Byzantine, Rus, Mongol, Ottoman) as well as processes of cultural desertification also provoked by massive human migrations (i.e.: pogroms, deportations, famine, exile). With this phenomena of human migration in mind the Kharkov engagement offers the opportunity for students to intervene in a territory that at some point in history has belonged to a dominant imperial structure and that at some other point in history has metamorphosed into oblivion. This studio will propose remedies against the imbalance brought about by intermittent cycles of colonization and evacuation that have shaped the inner periphery ring around the city center of Kharkov; a semi rural, semi urban, semi industrial, semi residential belt that is presently semi abandoned; an orphan architectural fabric infused with cultural significance. Students will reconsider, retrofit, transform, and or abandon these both underestimated and overestimated infrastructures and will propose possible new forms of human habitation inspired by a critical prognosis of future human migrations (emi and inmi) in the area.

The inner periphery of Kharkov is a well-defined ring (approximately 15 miles circumference, 1/4 mile wide) encircling the city center. It was generated over the last century and a half by several layers of still standing low rise-high density residential fabric which was later on splashed by a nebulous of Soviet manufacturing buildings-factories. The residential
and manufacturing mixed-use character of this ring is in an advanced state of decay. Students will propose new economically and culturally sustainable infrastructures that will help re-establish the link between this ring and the city center. Making use (re-use) of the strong existing semi- ruined environment students will propose new transportation, communication, institutional, and architectural networks to bring the ring back to civic life. Taking into account the particular idiosyncrasies of the Slavic culture-history, this studio will strive to envision an alternative to the American and European model of suburban sprawl.