Kyiv, March 17, 2016. A social art project “Stratygraphia”, a discussion platform for debating the issues of conservation and restoration of Kyiv architectural monuments, which are in disrepair, started in Kyiv. “It began as an art project, in which I explored the ruins and the disappearance of the city. But painting the ruins, I realized that my interest coincided with the interests of other people,” said Ksenia Hnylytska, artist, author of the “Stratygraphia” art documentation, at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. The project has united a number of activists and civil organizations that have long been concerned with the problems of architectural monuments and urban space arrangement, and transformed it into a discussion platform. The main objective of the project is updating the question of saving architectural monuments, activists’ coordination, exchange of experience and search for new practices of interaction between the government, civil society and private entities in matters related to saving architectural monuments and urban space arrangement. “We want to speak the language of arts, because I think it’s a universal language in modern world,” noted Aksinia Kurina, activist, project curator of the “Stratygraphia” project, NGO “Centre UA”. “I wish our communication resulted in forming a working group that will create a sort of road map.”
According to the activists, the problem of preservation of Kyiv architectural monuments and the city’s image is caused by a combination of factors – lack of political will of the state, lack (or critical shortage) of financial resources and lack of positive interaction among the state, society and individuals. “The fact is that the state does not want to provide resources and communities do not want to take risks. Our task is to try to resolve the conflict and determine what are the communities’ rights in solving the issues related to urban space,” said Kateryna Goncharova, coordinator of the “Right to the city” project. Practice has shown that social initiatives are able to implement successful projects of urban space arrangement and restoration – including such examples, said lawyer Maryna Soloviova, as Landscape Alley, work with the Desiatynna church foundation, construction of the Heaven Hundred Garden Park and several others. At the same time, says Ms. Goncharova, public initiatives need financing to implement such projects, while officials consider individuals, who possess or use the architectural monuments, “a priori to blame for everything.” In her view, a step to solving the problem will be denial of the hierarchical scheme of relations between the authorities and society and the transition to a partnership model. According to Dmytro Gurin, a huge advantage is that the theme of the city connects people: all society layers want a “normal state” city.
Dmytro Gurin pointed out that in fact almost all European cities also had to solve the same problem. “A city was generally recognized as the territory where one would rather had built something new than had repaired something old,” he said. The main impetus for the problem solution was not only an understanding of the heritage value, but also the development of tourism. The interest in historical sites gave rise to their profitability which in its turn resulted in additional motivation and provision of the resources to maintain them in good shape. According to Yevhenia Kuleba, founder of the NGO “Garden City,” as to this issue Kyiv should follow Western Europe’s example. “It is time to make the theme of cultural heritage preservation actual, and only then to proceed to the creation of new facilities, especially in the historical center of Kyiv,” she noted. Kateryna Goncharova added that it is important to understand that “a monument is not a museum piece, it is a “live” object that should be included in the daily life of the city.” It is a common practice in the world to let a facility on lease. A person who leases it, should undertake to clearly state the purpose of the building, to restore and maintain it; in exchange for this, such a person will make token lease payments during all the years, informed Ms. Soloviova. In addition, the issue of maintenance of monuments has to be solved by providing tax benefits, budget tranches, etc. to their owners. Maryna Soloviova noted that along with an incentive system it is important to work out the legal framework, which will envisage not only fines for improper maintenance of facilities, but also the possibility of withdrawal and return of such facilities into the municipal or state ownership.
“Stratygraphia” project will include periodical discussions, workshops and various art events. In particular, today an exhibition of art documentation opens. It is prepared by Ksenia Gnylytska and includes the works, which depict abandoned buildings from the register of monuments of regional and national importance. Besides, visitors can attend a public communications master class given by activist Mitya Gurin. “My master class will focus on the art of building relationships and negotiating. We want to move to Europe, so we should learn to put pressure on the authorities and to negotiate,” he noted. “Another master class will be on the access to public information, with an eye to the urban practice and architecture,” said Aksinia Kurina. Its participants will learn how to use the tools provided by the law to access data, what information may/may not be provided, how to formulate the query, etc.