Established in 2006, Yakusha Design is a multi-disciplinary architectural and design studio based in Kyiv, Ukraine. As founder and principal designer, Architect Victoria Yakusha strongly believes in authentic and honest design and seeks to revive endangered Ukrainian crafts and make them recognizable across the globe.
In a conversation with Minimalissimo, Yakusha described Ukrainian design philosophy.
“Ukrainian design is guided not just with functionality, but also with dreams, emotions, and feelings. We are not as minimalist as the Scandinavians and not as emotional as the Italians. We sit in the middle.”
In lieu of the Ukrainian War, artists in the country of Ukraine were not allowed the luxury of saving their art pieces or being able to place them in more secure locations. As a method of offering protection to such artists, Victoria Yakusha, through her firm Yakusha Design, announced the creation of a cultural complex in the village of Bolotnaya, Ukraine, during a special exhibition at Kyiv in September 2022.
The Maria Way
Focusing on the storage and display of artwork by the folk painter Maria Prymachenko, the museum to be built has been named ‘Maria’s Way.’ Paintings made by the artist were saved from the Ivankiv Historical and Local History Building in Kyiv in September. This building was burned down by Russian soldiers on their way into the Ukraine capital, Kyiv. Only 14 out of the 25 Prymachenko artworks on display at the museum could be salvaged – the rest of the paintings were destroyed by a sagging ceiling before the rescuers could get to them.
Maria Prymachenko was born in 1909 in a peasant family in Bolotnaya – close to Chernobyl – and contracted polio early in her life, which left her unfit to attend school. Inspired by embroidery by her mother, Maria taught herself to sew and paint, inspired by Ukrainian and Polesian traditional art. From here, she went on to become one of Ukraine’s most celebrated artists – and had the opportunity to display her art in several exhibitions, Ukrainian stamps, and even commemorative national coins.
The architect believes that this destruction is a glaring example of how the Russians plan to not only destroy Ukrainian power and wealth, but taint Ukraine’s identity, memory, and heritage – particularly through the destruction of historical & cultural museums, libraries, and monuments. To this day, a total of 12 museums, 65 religious sites, 15 monuments and the constructivist Railway Workers Palace of Culture (at Kharkiv) have been destroyed by Russian tropes, with the larger total of destroyed buildings coming up to over 140.
The museum has been commissioned by the Maria Primachenko Family Foundation, which has launched a public fundraising campaign to finance the cultural complex, intending to protect the artist’s legacy as a part of Ukraine’s art history. Along with the artist’s paintings, the cultural complex will house embroidery works by Prymachenko, as well as photographs and household items from the foundation’s private collection – something that has never been in a public exhibition before.
The architect has envisioned the museum to be shaped as 15 identical oculus-topped conical domes, as a tribute to the country’s traditional mazurka houses. These domes will be laid in a single line and connected by narrow corridors – the undulating structure representative of an animal’s mane, a motif commonly seen in the artist Maria Prymachenko’s works. These artworks tend to have several Ukrainian folklore elements, such as mythical beasts and exotic plants. The movement of people within these domes will be of considerable importance, as each dome will explore a different period of Prymachenko, from her childhood up to her last moments.
The material palette to be used for this is textured white clay for cladding, reed thatching, wood, and glass – materials which are mostly ecological and local to Kyiv, Ukraine. Yakusha considers this material palette as an ode to the planet and respect for the land they have, and will, occupy. The multi-domed structure will culminate in a glass-topped dome, which will act as an orangery to house several exotic plants, influenced by the technicolour displays in Prymachenok’s paintings. This greenhouse will be fringed in reed thatching, a typical roofing form in vernacular homes in Kyiv.
Apart from the museum and landscaping, the complex will also house a cafe nearby, planned to serve food based on Maria Prymachenok’s recipes, such that people can completely immerse themselves in the life of this famous historical artist. The artist’s home, which would also be a part of the complex, is to be turned into a sanctuary for other artists, sculptors, potters, and embroiderers to stay and immerse themselves into work – their own or even the artist’s.
The architect believes that this cultural complex will stand as an example of resistance – of how culture can be the shield against external tyranny. The more Ukrainian citizens are reminded of who they are and where they come from, the more difficult it will become for anyone to uproot the nation from its native soil.
- Victoria Yakusha designs museum to preserve Ukrainian cultural heritage threatened by invasion, J. Hahn, Dezeen (https://www.dezeen.com/2022/10/14/victoria-yakusha-maria-prymachenko-museum-bolotnya/)
- Creator Conversations – Victoria Yakusha, Minimalissimo (https://minimalissimo.com/creators/victoria-yakusha)
- Maria Prymachenko, Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maria_Prymachenko)