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Home » How to Design for Dignity During Times of War: Slava Balbek (Transcript)

How to Design for Dignity During Times of War: Slava Balbek (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Slava Balbek’s talk titled “How to Design for Dignity During Times of War” at TED conference.

In this compelling TED talk, architect and humanitarian Slava Balbek shares his transformative journey from a CEO of an architectural studio and café co-owner to a military volunteer and innovator in temporary housing for displaced persons in Ukraine. He describes how the full-scale invasion by Russia upended his life, compelling him and his team to pivot their architectural skills towards addressing urgent humanitarian needs.

Balbek details the creation of the Kyiv Volunteer organization, which provided essential services to the military and those affected by the war, emphasizing the unification of diverse professionals towards a common goal. He introduces the concept of RE:Ukraine Housing, a project aimed at redefining temporary housing with dignity and empathy, making it suitable for various life scenarios and integrating public spaces for community building.

Balbek’s team tackled the challenge of maintaining the traditional Ukrainian village aesthetic while incorporating modern materials and designs, resulting in a tool that generates over 211 million unique house configurations. Despite the hardships faced, including working around power outages and using innovative methods to continue their work, Balbek’s narrative is one of resilience, innovation, and the power of architecture to heal and provide hope.

His talk not only highlights the critical role of design in times of crisis but also serves as a call to action for leveraging peace and stability to prepare and respond to the needs of those affected by war and displacement.

Listen to the audio version here:

TRANSCRIPT:

Every month, I spend a week on the front line. For over a year now, I have been a member of the Aerial Reconnaissance Unit. Before the invasion, I had only used a drone to scout locations for my architectural practice. Now, I pilot a UAV to help Ukrainian artillery spot targets.

Transition to Military Life

This time, two years ago, I would probably introduce myself as the CEO of an architectural studio. Maybe I would also brag about co-owning two cafes in Kyiv, which I also designed. To be clear, I still am an architect and an entrepreneur. It’s just that now, I consider those roles supporting.

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