PhD students workshop: from fragmented information to an integrated approach to Ukraine’s war devastated areas

Important | 2023-12-06

Problem-solving skills and teamwork, as well as the ability to develop solutions to real-life problems of the present and future, are important for every PhD student. 23 November 2023 a problem-solving workshop for PhD students, organised by the Faculty of Civil Engineering and Architecture (FCEA) and the Doctoral Committees of History and Theory of Arts and Civil Engineering, was held at the KTU University Campus Library, focusing on the analysis of the problems of the war damaged areas in Ukraine and their solutions in multidisciplinary teams.

The event was moderated by Assoc. Prof. A. Mlinkauskienė, Vice Dean for Research of KTU FCEA, and I. Raudonikytė, PhD student in History and Theory of Arts. The event started with an introduction by Prof. A. Jurelionis, Dean of KTU FCEA, and four invited presentations on the multifaceted problems of the war-damaged territories in Ukraine.

Prof. D. Martinelli’s presentation was based on the theory of semiotics and presented architectural-heritage conservation strategies that can be used for devastated territories and war-related memories.  S. Boičenko, a Master’s student at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts, presented personal reflection on buildings and cultural objects destroyed during the war. Assoc. Prof. D. Chashyn from the Prydniprovska State Academy of Civil Engineering and Architecture shared the results of ongoing research on the application of Building Information Modelling to the reconstruction of war-damaged buildings. Milda Goštautaitė, a volunteer and a member of the Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union, talked about her personal experience in helping the people of Ukraine and about volunteering activities in war-torn territories.

The format of the event was based on the metaphor of “elephant in the dark”, moving from fragmented information through insight sharing and collaboration to more integrated approaches and solutions. Thus, first of all, each PhD student participating in the workshop analysed the issues raised by the speakers in the first part of the event within the framework of his/her own thesis research. This analysis was summarised in short presentations of 5-10 minutes. With 7 PhD students (4 of History and Theory of Arts and 3 of Civil Engineering) participating in the event, the presentations and the research and problem-solving opportunities they proposed were very diverse and varied, ranging from recycling and sustainable use of waste concrete from war-damaged sites, building information modelling, database creation and standardisation of solutions for typical apartment blocks, to research on environmental psychology and children’s perceptions of landscape.

In order to integrate the different approaches proposed by the PhD students for a more comprehensive understanding and solution of the problems, the participants were invited to work in teams and to try out the mind mapping methodology presented by Assoc. Prof. I. Gražulevičiūtė-Vileniškė. Mind maps not only allow to visualise ideas and concepts, but also to search for and see connections between different research methods or fields. In this last session of the workshop, the PhD students worked in two teams, with PhD students from both History and Theory of Arts and Civil Engineering working in each team. S. Boičenko joined one of the teams with her insights in the field of communication.

The result of the work in the teams was integrated problem analysis and solution mind maps. In presenting the maps, the team members also provided key insights summarising their work. The first team focused on knowledge sharing and communication in the areas of site restoration, building reconstruction and identity preservation. Team members B. Tugtepe, F. Manhanga and S. Boičenko highlighted that: despite the devastation we can create something new; preserve the identity and adapt the new reality; promote healthy discussion on how to preserve architecture and cultural fabric in the country; engage in cultural and technical knowledge sharing of good practices with other countries.

The second team members, T.A.J. Gloaguen, I. Raudonikytė and I. Osadcha, addressed issues such as shelter/housing for the people who had lost their homes, recycling of the remnants of destroyed buildings, preservation of cultural heritage and monitoring the psychological impact of post-war reconstruction policies. One of the proposals of this team is the creation of temporary sustainable humane ‘cities’ with a sense of home for people who have lost their homes due to hostilities, which could evolve over time into high quality permanent settlements. The discussion that followed the presentation of the mind-maps focused on the possibilities and benefits of further development of the workshop activities, such as joint interdisciplinary publications by PhD students or even research projects. For the idea of the event we would like to thank Prof. K. Zaleckis, Chairman of the Doctoral Committee in History and Theory of Arts, and Prof. A. Jurelionis, Chairman of the Doctoral Committee in Civil Engineering and Dean of KTU FCEA, and Assoc. Prof. A. Mlinkauskienė, Vice Dean for Research of KTU FCEA, G. Stankevičiūtė, Research Administrator at KTU FCEA, and I. Raudonikytė, Doctoral Student in History and Theory of Arts, for the organisation of the event.