VIСTORIA YAKUSHA - ARCHITECT OF CULTURAL HERITAGE
Ukrainian architect Victoria YAKUSHA has revealed plans for a cultural complex in the village of Bolotnya, Ukraine, to house artworks by folk painterMaria Prymachenko that was recently saved from a building destroyed in the Ukraine war. In 2022, in response to the Russian army's attack that targeted theIvankov Museum and led to the destruction of a part of MariaPrymachenko work,Victoria Yakusha conceived a museum project on the artist's home ground in Bolotnia.
" Culture is the foundation of every nation. It's soil. It's power. Over the last year, we continued our studio's mission and did everything we could, to talk about Ukraine and our rich heritage to the world. I want to mention Ukraine not only in the context of the war. It is a land of rich culture", explains Victoria Yakusha.
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, 65religious’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.
Maria Prymachenko was born in 1909 in a peasant family in Bolotnaya – close to Chornobyl– 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.
Bolotnya — a village where Maria Prymachenko spent her life, barely ever leaving the village’s borders. Maria’s home has been changed but it is still alive. Inside, you can find some of Maria’s personal belongings — her easel, paint, and bed. Outside Maria’s window, a viburnum — Ukrainian symbol of life with which Maria Prymachenkomet each new day.
If they had known each other, the artist and the architect would have understood each other. Both, through their work, are bridges between the past and the present, with the common will to carry Ukrainian folklore through the ages and to ensure its transmission. The architectural project signed by the Yakusha studio falls within the contextualism. If Maria lived on these lands, then this museum must embody her work. Faithful to the concept of "living minimalism" that characterized her work, Viktoriia Yakusha extracts the essence of Maria Prymachenko's work to create this ideal place.
"Maria is one of my favorite artists, she is a woman who created her universe. Her powerful compositions move, breathe, grow before our eyes, and reveal the essence of all living things. That's the art with the immense power, the art we should pass on," comments Victoria Yakusha.
Yakusha presented the concept of the architectural project on September, 2st at the exhibition opening "Maria Prymachenko. Saved" in Kyiv, which displays 14 of her works saved from the fire in the Ivankiv museum. During the event, the Minister of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine, Oleksandr Tkachenko, and the Head of the Kyiv Regional Military Administration, Oleksiy Kuleba, emphasized that the heroes who took the artworks out of fire were saving "not just the paintings of Maria Prymachenko, but Ukrainian identity".
A long rippling building with walls covered with white clay will host the exhibition spaces. The undulation by which a series of rooms are assembled reminds manes and backs of animals, recurrent motifs in the artist's work. The choice of a long building rather than a tall one also echoes Maria's work which preferred a horizontal format to illustrate a series of events. Thus, this horizontally spread building symbolizes the continuity of the culture and history of Ukraine, which is still being written with Maria Prymachenko's as a backbone.
The museum called “Maria's Way” would be formed from a row of 15 conical domes clad in textured, white clay in a nod to the country's vernacular mazanka house. 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. It is called "Maria's Way" - the steps from childhood to her last moments. Some halls house Maria's double-sided in the center, other viewers would be able to sit and watch projections of photos, and stories, on circular walls.
Light serves as an important theme of the architectural concept and reflects Maria's inspiration that seemed not to come from her surroundings but from an intangible source - the universe. a self-founded spiritual philosophy.
Orangery - a pavilion, collecting exotic plants that resemble those imagined by the artist and blooming in her works. Maria's world is full of flowers. Always bright. This is exactly what you can see at the end of a long journey through the halls of "Maria's Way" - a greenhouse with flowers and digital animals from her paintings. Defying local barren winter landscapes and symbolic of the brightness Maria found in herself despite her routine environment.
Important to mention, despite the hard times in our country, we continue to work. Victoria Yakusha with her FAINA furniture design studio continues to manage production, working with local handcrafted artisans, and specially now, Ukrainians are still inspired of developing the cultural heritage for which our country is so rich for.
Currently, Maria Prymachenko Family Foundation Is raising funds for the cultural project in Bolotnya. Investing in this project - you invest in the culture, you invest in the freedom, you invest in the future. As we all know that Ukraine - is a huge investment opportunity.