Brutalist Building of the Month: Physics Department at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv

Brutalist Building of the Month: Physics Department at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv

The Brutalist Building of the Month for March embodies the originality and creative drama of late Modernist architecture in Ukraine. The Physics Department at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv was symbolic of Soviet hi-tech vision and long-term thinking. Part of an expansive plan which fell to the wayside during the fall of the USSR, its continued use in independent Ukraine reflects the renewal and optimism which are embodied by the nation and the building’s bold design. Photography by Nigel Green.

The Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv was founded in 1833 and is recognised as the country’s most prestigious institute of higher education. It is the third oldest university in Ukraine and the largest of its kind in the region. Architects Budilovsky, Katsyn, Kolomiets, Ladny, and Morozov’s Physics Department (1972-1980) is located in the Teremky neighbourhood on the southwestern outskirts of the city, about ten kilometres from the university’s historic central campus. This secondary site was developed after a surge in the number of departments and students at the institution during the 1960s made expansion a necessity. 

Planning of the new satellite campus was entrusted to a group of five architects who, possibly inspired by the Japanese Metabolist movement, proposed a design made up of multiple, separate blocks which could be expanded and adapted as necessities developed. Their large-scale and comprehensive blueprints included buildings for student living alongside teaching and research facilities. All of the faculties constructed here were dedicated to engineering, electronics, and the sciences, further adding to the notion of a hi-tech utopia and reflecting the USSR’s dedication to scientific advancement at the time. The influences of Western Modernism are also clear, with Le Corbusier-esque brise-soleil featuring on the Faculty of Physics.

With the passing of time, the Taras Shevchenko National University’s new campus became a demonstration of the gap between the planned scale of Soviet development and the realisation of those plans. Most of the project was never built, and land which had been set aside for future completion of the campus was sold off to private developers in the 2000s. The project’s decline mirrors the great changes the region underwent in the time since its conception, and Russia's ongoing violent invasion threatens to add to that legacy. Whatever the building’s fate, the architects’ design embodies something of optimism and progress in its daring scale and form. These are the values which should shine through its history and towards its future.

Brutalist Calendar

The Physics Department is featured on our Brutalist Calendar 2024 for March. Since 2019, our annual, limited-edition monthly wall calendar is a celebration of some of the most awe-inspiring and influential examples of Brutalist architecture around the world. This year's calendar features stunning photography of Brutalist architecture from Buenos Aires to Bulgaria. Sign up for the newsletter below to be informed of the release of next year's calendar.

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