Urban space at the time of the war. Configuration and visual image of Kharkiv (Ukraine)

Keywords: City image, Configuration analysis, Visual perception, Metro station, Bomb shelter, Destruction, Reconstruction


This paper is devoted to consider the changes in the surrounding artificially created environment under the influence of the tragic circumstances of the Russian military invasion in Ukraine and the peculiarities in the perception of the urban environment, resulting from the interaction between it and the people. The war has changed the usual visual image of Ukrainian cities: many cities suffer from shelling, many objects of architectural and cultural value have been destroyed. The ruins of Mariupol, Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, Izium will represent the new view of these cities for a long time, as a reminder of the terrible events and suffering of individuals and communities. A lot of visual-informational forms have appeared, accompanying on the mental, content and emotional levels the resistance of Ukrainians. Visual forms capturing the destruction of streets and houses, household activities, suffering and pain of residents are shown focusing on the case study of Kharkiv, whose inner geography is considered within a configurational framework. The article, written under the storm that is still ravaging Ukraine, also displays a variety of “pictures” of people’s living in the Kharkiv metro, whose intended use is transformed into a shelter. Fragments and knowledge elements that ought to be recollected and put together while discussing strategies and choices for reconstructing Kharkiv when the weapons are finally laid down.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Valerio Cutini, University of Pisa, Italy

Full professor of Tecnica e Pianificazione Urbanistica and vice-director of the department of energy, systems, territorial and construction engineering at the Università di Pisa. Obtained its Ph.D. in Ingegneria Edilizia e Insediativa at the Università di Bologna (1991). Since 1997, Valerio Cutini teaches at the Università di Pisa on the courses of di Ingegneria Civile Ambientale and Ingegneria Edile-Architettura, and in several international universities as a visiting professor. It conducts research focused in the analysis of urban settlements and regional networks, assessing their development and evolutionary process of their morphology and functional aspects.

Mykhaylo Averbakh, Kharkiv National University of Civil Engineering and Architecture, Ukraine

PhD in Architecture, Former Associate Professor in Kharkiv National University of Civil Engineering and Architecture, Ukraine; Associate Professor in O.M. Beketov National University of Urban Economy in Kharkiv, Ukraine; Visiting Fellow at the Department DESTeC, University of Pisa, Italy; Expert of Romualdo del Bianco Foundation, Florence, Italy; Member of National Union of Ukrainian Architects. His research interests are generally oriented towards visual communication in the architectural environment and city visual image.

Oksana Demydiuk, Kharkiv National University of Civil Engineering and Architecture, Ukraine

PhD in Psychology; Former Associate Professor in Kharkiv National University of Civil Engineering and Architecture, Ukraine; Research work and complex evaluation as an expert within Tempus projects; Visiting Fellow at the Department DESTeC, University of Pisa, Italy; Expert of Romualdo del Bianco Foundation, Florence, Italy. Her research activity concerns functioning the interface of urban space with regard to the psychology of visual perception.


Alforov, I. (1972). The present and the future of socialist Kharkiv, Construction and Architecture, 12, 28-33 [in Ukrainian].

Alvanides, S., Ludwig, C. (2023). Bombed Cities: Legacies of Post‐War Planning on the Contemporary Urban and Social Fabric, Urban Planning, 8 (1), 165-168.

Averbakh, M., Demydiuk, O. (2017). Sign of Visual Communication in Architectural Environment. LAP Lambert Academic Publishing.

Besner, J. (2017). Cities think underground–Underground space (also) for people. Procedia engineering, 209, 49-55. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.proeng.2017.11.129

Biagioni, C. (2022). Kharkiv: the bombed city that lives in underground metro stations. Official website of S.I.R. Agenzia d’Informazione. Retrieved from: https://www.agensir.it/europa/2022/05/06/kharkiv-the-bombed-city-that-lives-in-underground-metro-stations/

Bourdieu, P. (2018). Structures, habitus, practices. In Rethinking the Subject (pp. 31-45). Routledge.

CityFace (2022). City and War. Website of the project. Retrieved from: https://en.cityface.org.ua/projectheritage.html [in Ukrainian and English]

Cutini, V. (2001). Centrality and Land Use: Three Case Studies on the Configurational Hypothesis, CYBERGEO – Revue Européenne de Géographie, vol. 188. https://doi.org/10.4000/cybergeo.3936

Cutini, V. (2013). The city, when it trembles. Earthquake destructions, post-earthquake reconstructions and grid configuration. In: Y O., Park H.T., Seo K.W. (eds.) 9thSSS Proceedings, Space Syntax 9th International Symposium, Seoul (South Korea), 30.10.2013–04.11.2013

Cutini, V. (2016) Motorways in Metropolitan Areas: The Northwestern Growth of Florence and the Urban Use of Motorway A1, IJGI International Journal of Geo-Information, 5 (77), 1-18. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijgi5060077

Cutini, V. (2022). Cities at risk: spatial matrices of resilience and security, Territorio, vol. 97, 77-84.

Cutini, V., Farese, D., & Rabino, G. (2020). Configuration and resilience: some remarks from the cases of Florence and Milan. Plurimondi, (18), 35-51.

Czarnecki, B., & Chodorowski, M. P. (2021). Urban Environment during Post-War Reconstruction: Architectural Dominants and Nodal Points as Measures of Changes in an Urban Landscape. Land, 10(10), 1083.


Didenko, C., Bouryak, A., & Antonenko, N. (2016). Residential Housing in Kharkov (Ukraine) 1920–1935. ZARCH Journal of interdisciplinary studies in architecture and Urbanism, 5.

Dinges, M. (2000). Historical anthropology and social history: through the theory of “style of life” to the “cultural history of everyday life”, In: Odysseus. Man in history, 96-124 [in Russian].

Gubkina, I., Bykov, A. (2019). Soviet modernism, brutalism, post-modernism : buildings and structures in Ukraine 1955–1991. Kyiv, Berlin: Osnovy DOM.

Hewryk, T. D. (1992). Planning of the Capital in Kharkiv. Harvard Ukrainian Studies, 16(3/4), 325-359.

Hillier, B. (2007). Space is the machine: a configurational theory of architecture. Space Syntax.

Hillier, B., & Hanson, J. (1984). The social logic of space. Cambridge university press.

Hillier, B., & Vaughan, L. (2007). The city as one thing. Progress in planning, 67(3), 205-230.


Kharkiv City Council (2021). Kharkiv is a student capital. Official website of the Kharkiv City Council, mayor, executive committee. Retrieved from: https://www.city.kharkov.ua/ru/o-xarkove/xarkov-studencheskaya-stolicza.html [in Russian]

Kharkiv guide (2008). Seven wonders of Kharkiv. Official website of the Kharkiv City Council, mayor, executive committee Retrieved from: https://www.city.kharkov.ua/uk/dovdnik/putevoditel-po-xarkovu.html [in Ukrainian].

Kharkiv Today (2022). Displaced residents of Kharkiv. How many of them are scattered across Ukraine? Official website of Kharkiv information and analytical portal “Kharkiv Today”. Retrieved from: https://2day.kh.ua/ua/kharkow/kharkivski-pereselentsi-skilky-yikh-rozkydano-po-ukrayini [in Ukrainian]

Knauer, B. (2023). From Reconstruction to Urban Preservation: Negotiating Built Heritage After the Second World War. Urban Planning, 8(1), 196-210. https://doi.org/10.17645/up.v8i1.6133

Kolovou, I., Gil, J., Karimi, K., Law, S., Versluis, L. (2017). Road Centre Line Simplification Principles for Angular Segment Analysis. In: Heitor T., Serra M., Pinelo Silva J., Bacharel M., Cannas da Silva L. (Eds.) Proceedings of the 11th Space Syntax Symposium, 11. 2017, Lisboa: Instituto Superior Técnico.

Krasko O. (2020). Features of perception of the city of Kharkiv by student youth (by survey materials), The Journal of V. N. Karazin Kharkiv National University. Series: History, 57, 106-119 [in Ukrainian].

Liubarskyi, R. (1960). Unloading the center of Kharkiv from motor vehicles, Construction and Architecture, 7, 6-8 [in Ukrainian].

Lynch K. (1960). The Image of the City. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Mayor’s Office (2022). More than 4000 buildings are destroyed and damaged in Kharkiv. Official website of Media Group “Obektiv”. Retrieved from: https://www.objectiv.tv/objectively/2022/08/17/v-harkove-razrusheny-i-povrezhdeny-bolshe-4000-domov-meriya/ [in Russian]

Rabino, G., & Cutini, V. (2012). Searching for Ariadne’s thread. Some remarks on urban resilience and orientation. TeMA-Journal of Land Use, Mobility and Environment, 5(2), 7-22. https://doi.org/10.6092/1970-9870/889

Reliefweb (2022). UNOSAT Damage Assessment Overview Map - Ukraine: Kharkiv, Kharkiv Oblast, Imagery Analysis: 15 June 2022 Published: 25 November 2022 V1. Retrieved from: https://reliefweb.int/map/ukraine/unosat-damage-assessment-overview-map-ukraine-kharkiv-kharkiv-oblast-imagery-analysis-15-june-2022-published-25-november-2022-v1

Rubinsztein-Dunlop S. (2022). Inside Ukraine’s underground city: No showers, no sunlight and no peace from Putin’s rockets. Official website of ABC News, Sydney. Retrieved from: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-04-22/kharkiv-a-new-secret-ukrainian-city-has-emerged-underground/101000764

Shkodovskyi, Y., Lavrentiev, I., Leibfreid, O., Poliakova, Y. (2002). Kharkiv. Yesterday, today, tomorrow. Kharkiv: Folio [in Ukrainian].

Shpara, P. (1967). Kharkiv in the present and in the future. [The city development and improvement masterplan]. Construction and Architecture, 6, 8-11 [in Ukrainian].

Stenson, J. (2022). Puppets, poetry go underground to entertain Ukrainians sheltering in Kharkiv metro. Official website of the online newspaper “The Times of Israel” Retrieved from: https://www.timesofisrael.com/puppets-poetry-go-underground-to-entertain-ukrainians-sheltering-in-kharkiv-metro/

Szczepańska, B. (2023). Post-War Architecture and Urban Planning as Means of Reinventing Opole’s Past and Identity. Urban Planning, 8(1), 266-278. https://doi.org/10.17645/up.v8i1.6079

Terekhov, I. (2022). Advertisements in the metro will be replaced by children’s drawings about the war. Official website of Kharkiv information and analytical portal “Kharkiv Today” Retrieved from: https://2day.kh.ua/ua/kharkow/pislya-viyny-u-kharkivskomu-metro-rozvisyat-dytyachi-malyunky [in Ukrainian]

Terekhov, I. (2022). Kharkiv metro will be able to shelter 154,000 people. Official website of Kharkiv information and analytical portal “Kharkiv Today” Retrieved from: https://2day.kh.ua/ru/kharkow/kharkovskiy-metropoliten-smozhet-prinyat-154-000-chelovek [in Russian].

Tiulpa, L. (1964). Planning of the Saltiv residential area. Construction and Architecture, 3, 6-8 [in Ukrainian].

Turner, A. (2000). Angular analysis a method for the quantification of space, paper 23, CASA working paper series.

Venturi, R., Scott Brown, D., Izenour, S., (1972). Learning From Las Vegas. MIT Press.

Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (2022). Code of Civil Protection of Ukraine. Official web-portal of the Parliament of Ukraine. Legislation of Ukraine. Retrieved from: https://zakon.rada.gov.ua/laws/show/en/5403-17?lang=en#Text

Wang, H., Newman, G., & Wang, Z. (2019). Urban Planning as an Extension of War Planning: The Case of Shenyang, China, 1898-1966. Journal Of Contemporary Urban Affairs, 3(1), 1-12. https://doi.org/10.25034/ijcua.2018.4677

West, R. L. (2023). Dockers in Poplar: The Legacy of the London County Council’s Replanning of Poplar, East London. Urban Planning, 8(1). https://doi.org/10.17645/up.v8i1.6075

How to Cite
CutiniV., AverbakhM., & DemydiukO. (2023). Urban space at the time of the war. Configuration and visual image of Kharkiv (Ukraine). TeMA - Journal of Land Use, Mobility and Environment, 16(1), 7-26. https://doi.org/10.6093/1970-9870/9912