The Swiss Network with Ukraine, conceived by Kees Christiaanse, stemmed from a small group within ETH Zurich’s Department of Architecture (D-ARCH) that shared a goal and commitment to assist Ukrainian refugee students, scholars, and educators while contributing to the advancement of architectural education in Ukraine. Swiftly expanding beyond its origins, the group transformed into a comprehensive and dynamic forum of individuals and organisations across diverse domains in architecture, construction, and planning. 

Hosted by ETH Zurich and supported by the departments of architecture (D-ARCH) and of civil, environmental, and geomatics engineering (D-BAUG), the network aims to link the immediate distress of Ukraine’s war realities with prospects of reconstruction in a spirit of solidarity, sustainability and democracy. Deliberately emphasizing decentralised reconstruction, it integrates both short-term relief measures and long-term developmental strategies on local and global scales.

Currently coordinated by Kees Christiaanse, Evelyne Gordon and Gyler Mydyti, the network comprises approximately 50 members, with a notable presence of Ukrainians. Its diverse membership includes architects, planners, engineers, university representatives, city officials from Zurich, and NGOs representatives. Members convene every five to six weeks at D-ARCH or D-BAUG, using these meetings as flatforms to share experiences, explore innovative initiatives, and cultivate synergies in their collective endeavors, while keeping the swarm-like multitude of actions.

Over the past year, the network delineated eight distinct activity clusters, each dedicated to specific aspects of the reconstruction process, showcasing the multifaceted and impactful nature of their collective efforts in fostering positive change:

I. IBA-Ukraine—an initiative to set up an International Building Exhibition in Ukraine.

II. Attention: spatial planning—providing planning and process support for local and regional governments in Ukraine

III. Housing—building emergency housing, with “permanent” qualities.

IV. Refurbishment and Material Supply—sending windows and other construction materials to refurbish abandoned and damaged buildings in Ukraine.

V. Capacity Building and Education—supporting courses in reconstruction.

VI. Mapping Ukraine—a digital platform, collecting data, information and projects on a geo-referenced basis.

VII. Ukrainian Community & Culture Platform—organising social cultural events for Ukrainians and exchange with Swiss people.

VIII. Agriculture & Energy—conducting research on the impacts of the war on the land, agricultural, and energy sectors.

Throughout its existence, the network has operated predominantly on the foundation of voluntary contributions, propelled by a collective desire for collaboration and coordination. Presently, there is a proactive drive to explore opportunities for the formalization of the network in a more professional capacity or its integration within a more institutional framework. The goal is to preserve its hallmark characteristics of openness, spontaneity, and accessibility. This website stands as a testament to this progression, with ETH Zurich not only hosting but also supporting the network, bolstered by substantial contributions from the D-ARCH and the D-BAUG.

Photo by Olena Melnyk

Photo by Olena Melnyk

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