Foster, who leads the UK’s largest architecture studio Foster + Partners, met mayor Ihor Terekhov in Geneva to discuss the “rehabilitation of the city” in eastern Ukraine earlier this week.
“I undertake to assemble the best minds with the best planning, architectural, design, and engineering skills in the world to bear on the rebirth of the city of Kharkiv,” said Foster.
At the meeting, which was also attended by Oxford University professor Ian Goldin and Harvard University professor Ed Glaeser, Terekhov explained his vision for the future of the city.
Located only 40 kilometres from the Russian border, the city was heavily damaged by the Russian army during the invasion.
“The first step would be a city masterplan”
Foster, who prepared a draft manifesto for the reconstruction of Kharkiv ahead of the meeting, explained that the first step towards reconstruction will be preparing a masterplan.
“The first step would be a city masterplan linked to the region, with the ambition to combine the most loved and revered heritage from the past with the most desirable and greenest elements of infrastructure and buildings — in other words, to deliver the city of the future now and to plan for its life decades ahead,” he said.
Along with representatives of the Norman Foster Foundation, Foster aims to recruit leading international and Ukrainian architects and designers to contribute to the reconstruction.
“In the spirit of combining a planetary awareness with local action, I would seek to bring together the top Ukrainian talents with worldwide expertise and advice,” Foster said.
Kharkiv has been heavily damaged during the invasion, with heritage organisations warning of a “barbaric destruction of architectural heritage” in the city.
Housing, hospitals, schools and heritage buildings, including an opera house, concert hall and government offices have reportedly been hit by shells. In response, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has said that the attacks are war crimes.
The invasion forced staff and students at Kharkiv Architecture School to flee the city, with principals Iryna Matsevko and Oleh Drozdov vowing “to make a strong statement and stay in Ukraine”.
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