Meet Oleksandra Karatunova, landscape architect from Kyiv

About the move to Sweden, the work at AFRY, and her vision for reconstruction projects in Ukraine.

Oleksandra joined AFRY as a landscape architect in 2022. After moving from Kyiv during an ongoing war, she shares her vision of restoring the destroyed parts of Ukraine and how she enjoys life in Sweden today.

It was a coincidence that Oleksandra became a landscape architect. She had studied to become an architect and planned to start drawing buildings right away. However, during graduating, she got a job as a landscape architect assistant at one of the most famous architectural firms in Ukraine and quickly realised that landscape architecture was a better fit than buildings.

"Landscape architect is an exciting and challenging job. In one project, I had a large empty space that needed to be transformed into a functional public area. Here, I could freely use my imagination, while it’s sometimes trickier with areas that have specific requirements. When working with landscapes, you must plan everything down to the smallest detail and conduct extensive research and analysis. It is not enough for the landscape space to just look beautiful; it should be of high quality and user-friendly," says Oleksandra.

Oleksandra Karatunova
"I'm a big fan of architecture and landscape architecture, and I love just strolling around town and admiring the details."

What types of projects have you worked on?

I have worked extensively on commercial residential complexes and holiday villages (outdoor spaces, playgrounds, streets, and public areas), as well as landscaping projects for schools, hotels, business centres, and parks.

In all projects, it's important for me to start with a detailed analysis of the future project area to understand the pros and cons, and how to emphasise or eliminate certain aspects. Social analysis is also crucial. Depending on the type of project, you need to understand what the local community wants in this area, and what they don't like. I have a sustainable approach to landscape design and use natural materials and recycling for maximum preservation of the natural environment.

Oleksandra Karatunova

Tell us about your first time at AFRY

I started in 2022, and the first thing I did was to learn about the company's culture and way of working. I then gradually started working on my first project: Kyrktomten preschool in Stockholm. My assignment in that project was to develop and sketch its courtyard landscape design.

I really enjoy being part of this company because it’s international, diverse, and open-minded. AFRY isn’t just about words, they’re genuinely committed to tackling global challenges. The atmosphere is welcoming and supportive, allowing everyone to be themselves and feel appreciated, and I feel safe to be myself and share my background.

Initially, it was difficult to integrate since I didn’t understand the language. I felt a strong need to pick up Swedish right away, and the first six months to a year were a challenge. However, learning the language made adapting to the culture easier. Even though my Swedish colleagues could communicate in English,I feel more at ease now that I can understand and speak Swedish.

Due to the current situation in Ukraine, you had to leave your home. What is your situation like now?

Before I moved here, I had visited Sweden a couple of times and really liked it. Because of the war, my family also joined me here temporarily, and we all arrived in Sweden together in March 2022. We were unsure how long they’d be staying, as it depended on the safety in Ukraine. Today, my mom is still here, busy working and studying Swedish. My life has changed extremely and will never be the same, but I am prouder than ever of Ukraine and our brave people.

Oleksandra Karatunova
"I love all kinds of animals, but especially dogs, and I own a bichon havanese."

Tell us about your vision of reconstructing Ukraine

Rebuilding destroyed cities and infrastructure is a unique opportunity to create a brand-new functional environment that meets all modern requirements and standards. It is a step towards a better future for the citizens, and it’s my biggest dream to be a part of the process. Moreover, personally for me, rebuilding also means moving away from the Soviet past that almost every town in Ukraine has.

Bringing in foreign experts to get involved in this process can really make a difference. Their know-how and experience could be a valuable boost when teaming up with local architects, urban planners, and engineers who know the ins and outs of the area's peculiarities, history, and culture. This teamwork can go a long way in preserving the uniqueness of each city.

Some might say that this is both a great and ambitious goal, but I believe that with the right collaboration and support it can become a reality once the war is over, changing the face of Ukraine for the better.

Who are you outside of work?

I enjoy being outdoors in the nature, that's where I recharge my batteries. I love all kinds of animals, but especially dogs, and I own a bichon havanese. I'm a big fan of architecture and landscape architecture (of course!) and I'm passionate about travelling and exploring new places, or just strolling around town and admiring the details.

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