When the Edelburg Development presented a plan to renovate the Soviet building of Dytiachyi Svit (“Kids’ World” in Ukrainian) department store in late March, it appeared that this modernism gem was doomed to change beyond recognition. 

But then the activists stepped in, making the developer roll back and commit to holding an open contest for a renovation plan.

Kyiv has a long history of sacrificing historical architecture in favor of big developers, which pushed activists to form a whole movement for the protection of Soviet and other eras’ structures. While the activism for preservation is strong, it often appears powerless in the face of corruption and business influence, making the department store’s case a rare story of possible success.

Located near the Darnytsia metro station, Dytiachyi Svit was constructed in 1987. It is widely recognizable for its gold-colored facade made of aluminum structures that also serve as protection from the sun. The building might be the only remaining example of authentic Soviet modernism on the left bank of the Dnipro River in Kyiv.


According to the Edelburg Development’s plan published on March 24, the area of Dytiachyi Svit was supposed to increase by 15,000 square meters, bringing the total area to 48,500 square meters after the renovation.

The plan also proposed to tear down the store’s well-recognizable facade and replace it with a colorful modern exterior. These changes were the main cause of the scandal, as they would have turned the Soviet building into a modern shopping mall with a bright, multicolored facade that resembles a Tetris game pattern. 

The Edelburg Development’s initial plan to renovate the iconic Kyiv department store Dytiachyi Svit suggested tearing down its famous aluminum facade and replacing it with a modern multicolored exterior. The design was first published on March 24. (Facebook/ Edelburg Development)

Urban activists and opinion leaders spoke against the Edelburg Development’s renovation plan online soon after the announcement. One of them was architecture and monumental art researcher Dmytro Solovyov, who runs the Ukrainian Modernism account on Instagram, which raises awareness about the country’s architectural heritage.


“They want to replace the valuable architectural heritage of the past era with another faceless facade in acid colors,” Solovyov wrote on Instagram.

One of the Edelburg Development’s arguments for the removal of the facade’s aluminum structure was its unsatisfactory condition. The company also wrote on Facebook that the building is not on the country’s cultural heritage list, which means it is not protected from any changes.

But the Save Kyiv Modernism movement, which advocates for the protection of distinct Soviet architecture, argued that Dytiachyi Svit “has the full right to be submitted for evaluation and further inclusion in the register of monuments, including due to the unique solution of the facade of the building.”

Amid the public outcry, the developer crawfished, writing on Facebook that the announced plan was just one of the visual solutions for the renovation of the building.

“The project is still under development. We will take your views into account,” the company wrote.

The Kyiv Post requested a comment from Edelburg Development but hasn’t heard back yet.

Following the company’s statement, the department store announced that along with the developer, they will hold an open contest for the renovation plan, present the submitted projects to the public and let the Kyiv residents pick the winner. The store promised to provide the details soon.


Dytiachyi Svit also published another possible plan for the reconstruction developed by the Lab 181 architectural studio. According to its design, the department store would have a modern grey exterior with wall-sized windows and glass elements resembling honeycombs. The project, however, doesn’t preserve the original facade either.

After a public outcry amid the renovation plans that would drastically change the look of Kyiv’s Dytiachyi Svit department store, it published another design option for its renovation on March 26. According to the plan, the building would have a modern grey exterior with wall-sized windows and glass elements resembling honeycombs.

The Edelburg Development said that since the facade is in a poor condition, it would have to be replaced in any case. The Save Kyiv Modernism group demands that the company publishes a report of a technical inspection that backs such a statement, but the developer hasn’t reacted. Meanwhile, Dytiachyi Svit’s original architect Volodymyr Zalutskyi argued that the facade doesn’t need reconstruction, as aluminum is a long-lasting material.

Zalutskyi, with a group of other architects, drew out his own plan for the expansion of the department store, presenting the design on March 30. The plan doesn’t suggest any changes to the facade.

According to Save Kyiv Modernism, it is not clear whether Zalutskyi’s plan will be up for consideration by the developer. They say, however, that the public attention to the controversy prevented the company from destroying the Dytiachyi Svit’s original design and if continued, it might help save its extraordinary architecture.


Read more: Activists try to save stigmatized Soviet architecture in Ukraine

While often neglected by owners and authorities, Kyiv’s Soviet buildings have become prime settings for music videos by world-known musicians, Western ads or films like the HBO hit miniseries “Chernobyl.”

Read more: Kyiv’s 12 extraordinary sights of Soviet architecture

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