Revisioning “sleeping blocks”

Master thesis
at the Kharkiv Technical

Year: 2012-2013

Each 3rd person in Kharkiv (Ukraine) lives in Mikrorayon, or “sleeping block”, a heritage from the 1950-60s as a result of the Khrushov’s statement “Apartment for each family”.

This statement was followed up by a clear proposal in order to achieve the targeted goal:

“We must select a limited number of standart designs of houses, schools, hospitals, buildings, kindergardens, nurseries, shops and other buildings and structures, and produce these projects using our industrial power. Let’s say for 5 years.” (from 07.12.1954, All-Union Conference of Builders).

In 10 years this statement became reality for Kharkiv as well, 80mx80m squares with perfectly planned infrastructure. All human needs were calculated measured and distributed among concrete jungles according to the distance from one house to certain «function».

In 1991 the system collapse.

From the age of 4, I lived in mikrorayons. My family changed at least 3 of them. There was no need to learn new streets, they all were the same.

Later, human activity started to diversify. Economical necessity was a driving force for this. Since 1991 most of the factories and plants got shut down. The country was slowly moving towards the market economy. Kiosks started to pop-up here and there, ground floor apartments opened their doors as pharmacies, bridal shops etc.. The Informal city started to blossom inside the Super-formal mikrorayon. What can be next?

I saw 2 points of departure in order to look for answers:

  1. A necessity to document «new» economy and therefore spaces and routes developed by people. This approach could bring the next layer of infrastructure so necessary for this area, as well as create new zones, despite «sleeping», one could identify, a market, a public space, a sports area and hopefully, some up-coming mixed-use.
  2. One obviously can notice, while the economical side was taking its shape, the cultural and educational part was weak. At the same time, there is a potential in hidden diamonds, like an old library, or kids-club, or former open-air cinema, as well as, there is one of the main resources available: people. In order to connect with them, I thought about initiating an experiment in the open space and try to look for the next steps together.

In order to approach this massive scale, I dedicated a big part of my time to the step 1 and in order to approach step 2, I decided to undergo the idea of 3-level interventions, where

  1. Idea
  2. Experiment
  3. In case of sucessful experiment > possible architecture

This theoretical proposal was presented in the end in a booklet, as well as 14 m2 panels.

One year later, I could realize one of the experiments at the mikrorayon in the frame of the NGO Krytychne Myslennya that we formed together with a colleague and friend Bohdan Volynskyi.