Along with tremendous pounding and loss, the ongoing war has given Europe and the world a chance to spot the incredible potential of Ukraine – cultural and social capital as well as the natural richness that, with its wildness and primeval character, distinguishes the country from its western neighbors. After the war this heritage will likely become the object of interest – people would like to explore Ukraine and support its economy through tourism. When preparing for this, it’s essential that we make an effort to preserve this unique natural environment. While Europe is struggling with a problem of light pollution, it is Ukraine that has a sky much darker than other countries, which positively impacts the wellbeing of multiple species and allows for astronomical observations and astrophotography. It is Ukraine that can pioneer in shaping environmentally conscious and innovative good practices of dark sky protection that can be scaled up and spread across Europe.
How, in the context of such a potential connected to the dark sky and post-war perspectives for environmental and economic restoration, can we responsibly think about tourism and astro-tourism in Ukraine? How might we interact with nature – the one underneath our feet and the one above our heads – without destroying it with our human footprint? Can tourism be practiced in symbiosis with nature instead of exploiting its resources? As sky gazing can be done by everyone, how can we make dark sky observation beneficial for multi-species ecosystems including local communities, hospitality industry, astronomers, tourists but also animals, plants and other inhabitants of Ukrainian natural sites? Could innovative astro-touristic opportunities offer new quality of meaningful leisure, regeneration and wellbeing in a broader sense?
Especially in this moment in history we can see that humans are used to conquer, colonize, harness and exploit, and even the sky can’t escape from it. But are we also able to decolonise, restore and reconnect?
Your group will be asked to work together in order to deliver prototypes* of interventions, initiatives or forms of documentation that would address above challenges and explore the responsible and conscious practices of decolonising the dark sky. Collectively propose how we might think about the intersection of dark sky, tourism and natural heritage of Ukraine in new ways. Potential outcomes might focus on (but not be limited to):
The scope of the concepts is practically unlimited, however some examples of the projects that you might end up with include: business models, service concepts, touristic activities, community engagement strategies, architectural concepts, digital and analogue tools, speculative scenarios, strategic design proposals, products, games, events, audio/video documentaries, manifestos, podcasts and more.
* By prototypes we mean samples of your creative concepts that could be tested and presented to an external audience – they might be tangible models but also sketches, visualizations, storyboards, video documentation, digital mockups, etc. Prototypes need to give an idea of how the concept would work in real life but they don’t need to be perfect nor cover all aspects of the project. They should be bold, intriguing, understandable, and open to future iterations. The prototypes should demonstrate a creative mix of the diverse competencies your group members bring to the table to enrich the proposal.