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UK practice fears Ukrainian work at risk

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A London-based practice working in the Ukraine is waiting to hear whether its scheme will survive the political turmoil in the country

Robin Monotti Architects (RMA) is nearing completion of preliminary design work for the Museum of the Metallurgical Plant in Donetsk.

Ukraine’s government was overthrown at the end of February, leading to extreme tensions in the Crimea region of the country, which borders Russia.

A UK-based lighting designer has pulled out of the Donetsk scheme citing the current instability among other factors.

RMA is staying away from the country at present and giving client Donetsteel Group time to decide whether to find a local lighting firm and if it will keep faith with the project.

Robin Monotti told AJ: ‘There is uncertainty about everything, including architecture projects, at this stage. Clients do not know what is going to happen.

‘Our client works closely with whichever government is in power. In this case there was going to be an advance from the government to be paid back through taxes. That is not clear any more.

‘Another challenge is finding consultants to work on the scheme – we need to find them from the Ukraine now.’

Monotti added that he hoped the scheme would still go ahead in due course, and that he was happy to give the client time to assess the current situation.

He said the speed of the fall of Ukraine’s government had been a surprise.

‘I flew into Kiev to receive a prize for our Yacht House project in Crimea in December,’ he said.

‘From the airplane I could distinctly see the fires in Independence Square used by the protesters to warm themselves up.

‘We spoke to the local administration and there was a sense that no-one knew what was going to happen. It surprised everyone with how quickly it escalated.’

Monotti said the longer-term fall out of the crisis could mean architects struggling to work across the whole of Ukraine.

‘If you have worked in the Russian area you might face prejudice when trying to work elsewhere in the country,’ he said.

‘I have also given up on working with UK consultants. We will only look for those already working in the Ukraine.’

But he said his practice would persist with its ambitions in the country.

‘There is a lot of classical architecture in the Ukraine and we work in the modern style,’ he said. ‘It is a clear niche and we have made a name for ourselves. Also it is possible for small architects to take on larger projects than in London.’

The 2,000m2 museum in Donetsk will be created from within the functioning Donetsksteel metallurgical plant.

It will sit in the old foundry building, which contains two existing furnaces that are being de-commissioned.

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