balbek bureau
Kyiv, Ukraine | View Map
Année du projet
Maryan Beresh


balbek bureau en tant que Architectes.


‘Chornobyl. Journey’ is a multimedia exhibition dedicated to the 35th anniversary of the  Chornobyl nuclear power plant disaster. The project’s goal was to form a new perspective on  the Chornobyl tragedy: to help people reevaluate history and prompt a discussion about the  future of the Exclusion Zone.  

The organizers aspired to tell the story of Chornobyl in a contemporary manner and transport  the audience into the epicenter of the events using immersive technology such as VR. 

photo_credit Maryan Beresh
Maryan Beresh


The exhibition was located inside the main pavilion of the Expocenter of Ukraine National  Complex. It is a monumental building erected in the 1950s, crowned by a dome with a 25- meter spire. The pomp of the building emphasized the weight of the Chornobyl tragedy. Here,  forms and meanings become intertwined. 


Once we received the project and evaluated its challenges, we visited the Exclusion Zone to  absorb the local atmosphere. Seeing the places affected by radiation with our own eyes  allowed us to approach the project thoughtfully and kept us from trivial decisions moving  forward. 

photo_credit Maryan Beresh
Maryan Beresh


To achieve the effect of gradual immersion, the structure of the exhibition was designed  around the principle of a literary narrative: with the progression of the storyline, a climax and a conclusion. 

It was decided to place the entrance off-center: this allowed to direct visitors to the beginning  of the exhibition straight away and convey the logic of the content. The central entrance to the  pavilion, on the contrary, was used as the exit.

In the ‘Catastrophe’ zone, we deliberately complicated the visitors’ movement, creating a  labyrinth that doesn’t make it easy to bypass this block. This element is a metaphor for the  arduous journey that the Chornobyl tragedy had to become for many people. 

Emotionally intense blocks were located in windowless zones, while the educational blocks  such as ‘Atom’ and ‘Nature’ were placed in areas flooded with natural light. The ‘Forest’, which  was the finale of the journey, was placed in the central domed hall. 

photo_credit Maryan Beresh
Maryan Beresh


We aspired to integrate our design with the shape and volume of the pavilion as much as  possible. The management of the Expocentre aided in this, giving us the green light to repaint  the walls and dismantle the temporary metal constructions left from a previous exhibition. 

Just behind the reception stood a standard doorway that led into the exhibition space. We  proposed to dismantle it completely and instead installed a plasterboard wall, which cuts  through the doorway. This solution helped guide the visitors in the right direction, leading them  straight into the main hall, where the exhibition begins. 

During the design and installation stage of the stands, it was necessary to provide ample  space for interactive elements: touch frames, tablets, VR glasses. The mobile part of the  exhibition, which was to be transported to other locations later on, was made of MDF, while  the rest of the structures were made of plasterboard. 

The lighting concept was developed by Alight, based on our requests. For example, the ‘Catastrophe’ zone was proposed to be flooded with dramatic red lighting. 

photo_credit Maryan Beresh
Maryan Beresh


Our team was tasked with designing the space for the exhibition. It was important to coherently  plan the visitors’ route, helping them reflect on the historical events and fully immerse  themselves into the atmosphere of the time.  

The goal was to zone the pavilion according to the conceptual blocks of the exhibition: starting  with the information block which focused on the events of 1986, and ending with the ‘Forest’  – a zone with living plants, which symbolized the transformation of the Exclusion Zone into a  revival zone. 

To use the space efficiently, we analyzed the pavilion, carefully measuring and photographing  the area, and then building a 3D model. This helped us determine sources of natural light,  form compositional centers and correctly interact with the volume of the space. 

Another important goal was to make the space inclusive: all zones had to be accessible to  individuals with disabilities. 

photo_credit Maryan Beresh
Maryan Beresh


The main challenge of the project was its rigid timeframe. We had five weeks to analyze the  space, design the concept and then construct it. This prompted us to search for solutions that  could be implemented swiftly. What complicated the process was the fact that the design  phase took place at the same time as the coordination of the final lists of artifacts and exhibits. 

The status of an architectural landmark dictated technical limitations. Since the constructions  could not be mounted on walls or fixed to the floor, we had to plan in advance how to design  the stand-alone constructions with maximum stability. After closing, part of the exhibition is  planned to be relocated, meaning some of the elements had to be mobile.  

With quarantine regulations in mind, the stands had to be spaced in such a way that would  allow for social distancing.  

photo_credit Maryan Beresh
Maryan Beresh


The exhibition unites seven narrative blocks: ‘1986’, ‘Catastrophe’, ‘Prometheus’, ‘Atom’,  ‘People’, ‘Nature’ and ‘Today, Tomorrow’. 

The first block – ‘1986’ – is an excursion into the events of that time in Ukraine and the world. 

Next, we see the ‘Catastrophe’ block, dedicated to the city of Pripyat and the Chornobyl  disaster. It was decided to block the pathway between this zone and the central hall, leaving  just a small window overlooking the living forest, as if peering into the future. 

At the end of the block stands a six-metre model of the sculpture ‘Prometheus’ – the symbol  of Pripyat. Its stylized silhouette, created by designer Sergii Holtvyansky, is made of polyfoam  with the image printed on PVC. 

As we pass by ‘Prometheus’ and through a screen, we find ourselves in a space with large  windows. The transition between blackout zones and zones with natural light conveys the  feeling that life goes on even after tragedy.  

The educational block combines two parts: ‘Atom’ talks about atomic energy, and ‘Nature’ – about the Chornobyl nature reserve. 

At the center of the hall we see a wooden ‘house’. It’s a momentous exhibit, which tells the  story of the people whose lives were changed by the catastrophe: it records the stories of the  liquidators and their relatives, station workers, those who were forced to leave their homes,  and those born in the year of the tragedy. We wanted the audience to subconsciously absorb  the imagery of the house, yet tried our best not to make it bland and too on the nose. We  settled on a design with a non-standard configuration and a cut roof, which symbolizes the rift  in the lives of families affected by the disaster. The "house" has two private rooms where  visitors can share their own stories about the Chornobyl tragedy. 

Behind another screen stands a hall with wooden benches, where lectures and film screenings  are held. The domed ceiling, reminiscent of the reactor lid, holds a projection of the Chornobyl  Zone logo, which is designed to gradually disappear. For maximum darkness in this area, we  used blackout curtains.

The ‘Today, tomorrow’ block prompts a discussion about the future of Chornobyl. The exhibit  is summed up by a projection of Pink Floyd’s ‘Marooned’ music video.  

The exhibition concludes with ‘Forest’ – a symbol of nature reborn even after the catastrophe.  Our team’s task was to design the green zone so that it would become a place one would want  to engrave in their memory. 

Planters containing the trees were hidden under a metal framework, and a false floor was  constructed for the moss.  

In the middle of the forest stands a bridge, crossing which you can fully immerse yourself into  the atmosphere of the nature reserve. Round benches were placed under the trees, allowing  visitors to rest and contemplate the journey taken. 

photo_credit Maryan Beresh
Maryan Beresh


The project ‘Chornobyl. Journey’, the concept and realization of which was headed by  communication agency Gres Todorchuk, became the first experience of scenography for  balbek bureau. Our team was thrilled to participate in a new format and have the opportunity  to channel our experience and creative potential into this exciting project. 

It was valuable for us to join a large team of like-minded people: curators, content creators,  historians, scientists – all have made incredible efforts to share their vision of the Chornobyl  disaster with a broad audience. We had the honor of implementing our very first government commissioned project, joining an initiative that will help reevaluate Ukrainian history moving  forward. 

photo_credit Maryan Beresh
Maryan Beresh


Architecture Firm: balbek bureau 
Architects: Slava Balbek, Vitalina Hoshovska, Anastasiia Partyka, Sofia Hupalovska, Sasha  Martyniuk, Alyona Tryhub, Anastasiia Vinidiktova, Liuba Myronchuk, Anastasiia Romaniv Product Designers: Serhii Havrylov, Alina Vovkotrub 
Procurement Manager: Daryna Ignatyieva 
Project Managers: Tetiana Romas, Anton Lebediev

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