This lecture examines the mass educational model introduced at VKhUTEMAS in the 1920s and aims to recast the formative pedagogical contributions of this avant-garde school in the fields of modern art, architecture, and design after a century of obscurity.
The mass character of early twentieth-century design education in Soviet Russia was an essential condition for the modernist paradigm. The Higher Art and Technical Studios, known by their Russian abbreviation VKhUTEMAS, aimed to translate contemporary scientific knowledge and abstract visual language into modern design pedagogy, adopting the so-called “objective method” in order to facilitate instruction on a mass scale.
Similar to the Bauhaus, VKhUTEMAS articulated the ideals of the avant-garde into a coherent body of knowledge, which could be taught as a design curriculum. The lecture will shed new light on this interdisciplinary institution that, while still obscure today, contributed in many critical ways to shaping the early decades of modernism: in its visionary pedagogical methods, in bringing together some of the most significant protagonists of the modern era, and, ultimately, in the manifestation of work by its teachers and students in the form of real-world spaces and everyday objects.
The lecture not only frames the work of VKhUTEMAS students and faculty relative to the larger cultural context but also examines the principles behind its groundbreaking methodology, as featured in Anna Bokov’s new book Avant-Garde as Method: Vkhutemas and the Pedagogy of Space, 1920–1930 (Park Books, 2020).