Transforming War into Art: Anti-Tank Obstacle Hedgehog – Kyiv Defender

Mihel Mazepovich, Sofia Bondar, Denny Uhorchuk

At the start of the invasion, our Kyiv cultural community made tank barriers to defend our city. Now we transform them into urban art like benches and bicycle racks. We want to share them with you and have creative instructions on how to upcycle them. Our “hedgehogs” are a reminder of the war and the power of culture to bring about positive change.
Off Stage

With the beginning of Russia’s invasion, our cultural community of Kyiv musicians, artists, architects, decorators, designers and other cultural workers became civil resistance. 

People who once created culture began to design tank barriers (“hedgehogs”) and bulletproof vests to make a small contribution to the resistance of our beloved city. We made about 300 hedgehogs and 2000 bulletproof vests, showing the world our resistance:   

  • NBC:
  • France24:
  • TV2:

After Kyiv was successfully defended and the invaders withdrew from the region, we went back to what we do best: Creating culture. 

One of the projects we launched is the "Anti-Tank Obstacle Hedgehog - Kyiv Defender”, which transforms the symbols of war into useful and meaningful urban objects.

Our project's mission is to upcycle anti-tank hedgehogs into useful architectural objects that serve three purposes: 

  • art in urban use
  • memory and warning
  • and obstacles for tanks. 

The upcycled objects are designed to quickly transform into anti-tank hedgehogs if needed and can be installed in different Ukrainian and European cities as a symbol of resistance.

To ease the process of sharing our upcycled hedgehogs with the world, architect Sofia Bondar, who has been actively involved in our civil resistance movement, has created a comprehensive manual describing the steps to recycle the hedgehogs into useful architectural objects.

The symbolism of our project lies in the complex and painful process of war, which can have both negative and positive consequences. Even though war can lead to change and development, it is important to remember its terrible impact on people's lives and to strive for peace and conflict resolution. 

The initiative is part of the story of a new culture and art, the rebuilding of cities, the importance of upcycling and remembering the terrible consequences of war.

The objects consist of anti-tank hedgehogs and a functional part, which defines the type of urban object, such as a bench, lantern, bicycle rack, or table. They bear the project's logo, a red rat on a yellow hedgehog, symbolising the evil of war and the good of resistance. All massive parts are made of metal, with no plastic.

Placing the upcycled objects in European cities is an act of care, remembrance and solidarity with the Ukrainian people, while benefiting local citizens. At the same time, we want to share our experience and resources with others when it comes to defence and resilience. As an example of the expansion of the project beyond Ukraine, one of the upcycled benches was placed in the Pilecki Institute in Berlin, Germany.

Our culture-urban project transforms the symbols of war into meaningful and useful urban objects and serves as a reminder of the consequences of war, the importance of peace, and the power of culture and art to create positive change.