UrbanRubryka 10:45 24 Jan 2022

Neglected Podil. What to do with houses that everyone has forgotten about?

Kyiv's Renovation Map project has taken care of abandoned buildings in Podil. Rubryka reveals how to protect the historical architectural heritage of the city from destruction.


Houses surrounded by a green fence for Kyiv are more commonplace than an exception. And for Podil even more: on almost every street you can find a historic estate with the sky visible through the roof.

Podil is one of the oldest districts of Kyiv, with a unique cozy atmosphere. In addition, about fifty buildings here are abandoned, dilapidated deserted buildings. Unique examples of architecture are now forgotten and ignored and are being destroyed by the pressure of the weather and unscrupulous building developers.


Abandoned house on Tsemlianskyi Lane


The public organization Renovation Map has started to fight against the destruction of the Podil architectural heritage.

Renovation Map is a project that brings together architects, restorers, urban planners, and designers to preserve historic buildings. The NGO grew out of the idea of ​​creating an interactive map showing all abandoned buildings in Kyiv. In 2019, a walk through Podil and the number of abandoned houses in the area led two architects Daria and Lisa, and developer Serhii to think about what they can do for the city. They started researching abandoned houses and writing about them on Facebook. These first posts received strong support and formed a community of caring people. Gradually, the Facebook community began to grow and eventually evolved into a non-governmental organization with 16 permanent staff members and about 70 other volunteers and experts.

People from all walks of life come to the Renovation Map: architects, lawyers, journalists, designers, and IT professionals come together to help save houses. Renovation Map volunteers search for, research, and describe abandoned houses, and continue to fight for their return to the city's living space. The work of volunteers is visualized in an interactive map depicting all abandoned buildings found by the Renovation Map.

"The historic house is the material embodiment of a certain era. That's how we know that our past existed, and that's why we are who we are now."

Daria Korba, architect, founder of the Renovation Map, for Background Matters video on the Renovation Map Youtube channel. Daria is outraged that historic buildings are standing and collapsing, and the priceless space in the city center is not being used.


Interactive map of abandoned buildings in Kyiv

After putting all the abandoned houses of the Shevchenkivskyi district on the map, the activists decided to move to the Podilskyi district, one of the oldest and historically richest parts of the city. In October, the Renovation Map launched the In Search of the Abandoned Podil project to find, document, and return the city's architectural heritage to the city. As part of the project, the Renovation Map selected those who wanted to learn how to explore buildings, communicate with the authorities and reintegrate abandoned houses into the life of Podil. As a result of the project, its participants plan to collect data on all abandoned buildings in Podil and publish them, as well as create a telegram bot and an interactive map to distribute all collected information.

"Thanks to this project, the team of the Renovation Map and volunteers, the abandoned Podil houses will be able to return to their former purpose or get a new goal, a new content, to become a platform for cultural, educational or environmental life of the district."

Milena Rybtsova, participant of the In Search of the Abandoned Podil project, joined the team of volunteers because she loves the area where she studies and works. Milena researched and collected data about the house with the muse, the building on Yaroslavskyi Lane, 3.



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To change the dramatic situation with abandoned houses in the capital, the Renovation Map uses the method of non-violent struggle and civic tech technology. Civic tech is a technology that aims to facilitate communication between the public and the government. The Renovation Map uses civic tech to protect historic buildings as volunteers search for information through registries and information aggregators, and creates civic tech solutions itself. An example of such a solution is an interactive map of abandoned houses and a telegram-bot with information about the abandoned houses of Podil. Nonviolent struggle and IT solutions can be effective tools to improve the city, the organization argues. Work on returning the neglected houses to the city is in several stages.


Like every civic initiative, the Renovation Map is maintained by activists. Within In Search of the Abandoned Podil alone, the organization gathered and trained 30 people willing to investigate and rescue abandoned houses. The selection took place in two stages: the candidates had to fill in a questionnaire and pass an interview. In total, the Renovation Map received more than 100 applications.

You can also try to join the Renovation Map outside the project. To do this, just fill out the form on the site, tell about your motivation, skills, and areas in which you want to work. As a test, the future volunteer is asked to explore one building on their own. This makes it clear whether the organization and the person fit together. Currently, the organization employs about 70 volunteers.



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The first stage of the project is the training of activists. Protecting the architectural heritage requires thorough prior training in a variety of fields. The Renovation Map discusses field research methods, architectural context, legal details, and issues of abandoned heritage. Lectures from the founders and activists of the Renovation Map are available not only for project participants but also for anyone interested in protecting historic buildings. Recordings of the broadcasts can now be found on the Renovation Maps telegram channel, but after completing the In Search of the Abandoned Podil project, activists promise to put together a comprehensive course with all the content on the organization's website and YouTube channel.

"Before field research, it will be more useful to understand how you recognize the neglected house: it is one or not. Unfortunately, it is very easy for us to get confused. You see a tree growing in the house and you think it's probably an abandoned house, and it's the Department of Health of the Kyiv City State Administration on Prorizna street."

Ksenia Paltsun, lecturer, architect, and illustrator, one of the founders of the Renovation Map, in a lecture on field research. Ksenia believes that the Renovation Map should encourage the community to take social responsibility for the place where this community lives.


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Any problem requires identification first. This also applies to abandoned buildings. Of course, they must be reintegrated into the urban space, regain their old role or find a new one. But first, the abandoned houses must be found. Volunteers conduct field research, inspecting, describing, and photographing buildings. As a result of field research, project participants found and studied 84 buildings. Volunteer neglect metrics help the volunteers to determine the state of neglect, and instructions for conducting visual examinations will help to learn how to properly photograph an abandoned house.

"I was instructed to explore the house on Yaroslavskyi Lane, 3, the estate with the elderly man. It is called a house with muses, thanks to the bas-reliefs of girls between the windows. This is supposedly the muse of Terpsichore's dance. But above the door, there is also a bas-relief of an elderly man. That's why we call it the Manor with Grandpa.

Nothing is known about the estate, as well as about many abandoned Podil houses: neither the exact date of construction, nor the architect, nor the current owners. I have to find out if anyone lives here, what the condition of the building is, and whether it is possible to use it at all."

Milena Rybtsova, participant of the In Search of the Abandoned Podil project. Like other volunteers, she was given a few blocks in Podil for sightseeing, questioning, and photography. 


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Besides working in the fields, protecting the abandoned Podil also means finding information, sending inquiries to the authorities, and collecting data to protect buildings from destruction. The collection of information consists of three stages: the collection of basic, historical, and legal information. The study covers all possible aspects related to the abandoned building: from the architect to the type of brick from which the house was built, from the architectural style to the number of broken windows. All this data will help in the future during preparing documentation to protect the building. Assigning a protective status to the building helps to preserve it. Legal support of obtaining the protected status of a monument of architecture or history is one of the stages of the work of the Renovation Map volunteers.

"Imagine that you have to calculate the area of ​​a building without its plan. You can't calculate the area from the outside. Here we can use the Google Earth tool. Here you can circle the object you want and see the area of ​​the site where the object is located. It's simple: multiply the area of ​​Google Earth by the number of floors in your home and that's it! You have the area of ​​your house and you are well done."

Vitalii Kosii, lecturer, one of the founders of the Renovation Map, curator of volunteers, in a lecture on desk research. Vitalii explains how desk research allows you to get data that cannot be collected in the fields.


After protecting the building from arbitrary demolition, the most important thing remains: to return it to the city. To restore the abandoned building, volunteers contact businesses that may be interested in it, as well as help develop projects and concepts for the renovation of abandoned spaces.


The In Search of the Abandoned Podil project is now nearing completion, and the release of a map of abandoned houses of the districts is being prepared. Meanwhile, over the past year, Renovation Map volunteers have protected historic buildings in the courts, secured the protection of four buildings, and collected thousands of signatures under collective petitions to protect architecture.

Bakkalynskyi's mansion, Rodin's House, Flowers of Ukraine, and Dmytriiev's estate received protection statuses. The last three buildings are also the subject of heated lawsuits by lawyers from the Renovation Map.

In November, volunteers managed to return Dmutriiev's historic estate at 2 Khoryva Street to state ownership. This, in turn, will save the building from demolition by a private developer. Dmytriiev's estate is a complex of five buildings, built in 1830-1910; it's a unique example of pre-revolutionary buildings in Kyiv. The fight for the estate on 2 Horyva Steet became known in the media, as the lawyer of the Renovation Map Dmytro Perov was threatened on the eve of the court hearing. Despite the circumstances, Dmytriiev's estate was preserved.


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Not all historic buildings were so lucky. Volunteers failed to save Utkin's 120-year-old house at 29 Symona Petliury Street. Despite appeals to the authorities, actions to protect the house and open a criminal case, the historic building was demolished in April 2021. It is planned to build a 26-story residential complex in its place.

The other side of the project, education, is also already yielding results. The first results of research conducted by volunteers are published on the pages of the Renovation Map on social media. Educational activities form a community responsible for the place where it lives. It is important to explain to the community that it must take care of the preservation and development of the district, it is important to show that the historic architecture preserves the spirit of the city and shapes its present.


Read more about the work of the Renovation Map and the struggle for architectural heritage by non-violent methods in our article "Utkin House and other scandals: how to protect the city from illegal buildings and failed reconstructions."

You can join the network of volunteers or support the Renovation Map on the organization's website. Instructions prepared by volunteers will help to conduct research on the building and teach you how to properly photograph abandoned houses.


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