Victoria Yakusha designs a museum to protect Ukrainian cultural heritage

Architect Victoria Yakusha has revealed plans for a cultural complex in the village of Bolotnya, Ukraine, to house works of art by folk painter Maria Prymachenko who were recently rescued from a building destroyed during the war. ‘Ukraine.

The museum called Maria’s Way is said to be a row of 15 conical domes clad in textured white clay in a nod to the country’s vernacular mazanka houses.

Connected by narrow corridors, this undulating structure was designed to resemble an animal’s mane – a common motif in Prymachenko’s work, which often depicts mythical beasts from Ukrainian folklore.

Victoria Yakusha unveiled visuals for the Maria’s Way museum

The site would also house a café, a reed-covered orangery and an artist residency for those who “want to linger a little longer in Maria’s world,” Yakusha said.

Plans for the cultural complex were announced at an exhibition in Kyiv last month. This featured paintings by the artist that were rescued from the ruins of the Ivankiv History and Local History Museum near Kyiv, which was set on fire by Russian soldiers in February as they advanced towards the Ukrainian capital.

Rendering of a glass dome greenhouse with reed thatch at the base
The complex comprises a row of 15 rotunda rooms and a reed-lined orangery

According to Yakusha, only 14 of the 25 Prymachenko on display at the museum could be saved from the burning building by a group of local men.

“They didn’t have time to save everything,” she told Dezeen. “A massive fire broke out and the ceiling started to sag, so they had to leave the building.”

“The destruction not only of military infrastructure but also of historical and cultural monuments, museums and libraries can be traced to all the places where the Russians have arrived,” she continued. “They are trying to destroy Ukrainian identity, our memory and our heritage.”

Artwork by Ukrainian folk artist Maria Prymachenko
The museum was designed to house works by Maria Prymachenko

In addition to the rescued paintings, the new museum commissioned by the Maria Prymachenko Family Foundation will house embroidery works by the artist, as well as photographs and household objects from the foundation’s private collection, which have never been exhibited. previously.

These will be exhibited in the museum’s 15 oculus-topped rotunda rooms, each exploring a different period of Prymachenko’s life, from his childhood to his final moments.

Born in 1909 to a peasant family in Bolotnya – about 60 kilometers from Chernobyl – Prymashenko taught herself to paint and became one of Ukraine’s most famous artists, appearing on everything from stamps to coins. commemorative.

Person standing in front of a painting by Maria Prymachenko
The project was announced at a special exhibition in Kyiv last month

“In his life, there were many challenges and many sufferings,” Yakusha said. “In addition to illness, she lost her husband, raised her son alone and survived World War II.”

“However, in Maria’s paintings, the good always outweighs the bad. There is love of life and togetherness,” she added. “Maria Prymachenko is a pure symbol of Ukraine.”

The museum’s row of rotunda rooms would culminate in a glass-domed orangery containing exotic plants that resemble those imagined in Prymachenko’s polychrome works of art.

Yakusha envisions the base of this greenhouse being lined with reed thatch, which is traditionally used to form the roofing of Ukrainian vernacular houses.

“We hope to use local ecological materials in Ukraine like clay, reeds, wood and others,” said the architect. “We must be responsible for our planet and respect our land.”

Nearby, a café will serve dishes based on Prymachenko’s own recipes while the artist’s residence will provide a place for sculptors, potters and embroiderers to immerse themselves in his work.

Rendering of a glass dome greenhouse with reed thatch at the base designed by Victoria Yakusha for Maria's Way Museum
The orangery is said to house exotic plants resembling those in Prymachenko’s works

The Maria Prymachenko Family Foundation has launched a public fundraising campaign to finance the cultural complex, with the aim of preserving the artist’s legacy and his contribution to Ukrainian cultural heritage.

“Thanks to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, we have shown how brave we are,” Yakusha said. “But for me it is very important that Ukraine is not only mentioned in the context of the war. We are a country with a rich ancient culture and talented people.”

“The more we understand who we are and feel our roots, the harder it will be to destroy ourselves,” she added. “Culture is one of our shields, the soil of the nation.”

Entrance to the conical rotunda forming the Maria's Way Museum
The museum’s conical domes are lined up to resemble an animal’s mane

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, more than 140 important cultural sites across the country have been damaged, including 12 museums, 65 religious sites, 15 monuments and the Railway Workers’ Constructivist Culture Palace in Kharkiv.

In response, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for Russia’s expulsion from UNESCO, the world heritage body.

Entrance to the conical rotunda forming the Maria's Way Museum by Victoria Yakusha
The building would be finished in local clay

“Russia deliberately and systematically destroys Ukraine’s cultural and historical heritage, as well as social infrastructure, housing and everything necessary for normal life,” he said in a video address in June.

“A state that does this cannot be a member of UNESCO and cannot remain in the UN as if nothing had happened.”

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