A lecture by Anna Bokov. “Avant-Garde as Method: VKhUTEMAS and the Pedagogy of Space, 1920–1930”


From 16 November 2020




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).



Anna Bokov is an architect, historian, and educator. She holds a PhD from Yale University, a master’s degree in architecture from Harvard Graduate School of Design, and a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Syracuse University. She is a resident member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. She has taught at the Cooper Union, Parsons, Cornell University, Yale School of Architecture, Harvard GSD, and Moscow Architectural Institute. Anna has worked as an architect, urban designer, and researcher with OMA, Herzog & de Meuron, NBBJ, Ennead, and the City of Somerville. She served as an editor for Project Russia and Project International magazines. Anna was a recipient of the Mellon Fellowship, the Beinecke Research Grant at Yale, and the Graham Foundation Grant. Her work has been published by The Journal of Architecture, Perspecta, Walker Art Center Primer, MoMA Post, Venice Biennale, Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, and Bauhaus-Universität Weimar. Her book Avant-Garde as Method: Vkhutemas and the Pedagogy of Space, 1920–1930 (Park Books, 2020) is dedicated to the Russian counterpart of the Bauhaus. She is currently working on several centennial projects on VKhUTEMAS.


The lecture will take place online (in English with translation).
It will be available on YouTube.