Avant-Garde as Method
Vkhutemas and the Pedagogy of Space, 1920–1930
The groundbreaking new study on the early Soviet Union's Higher Art and Technical Studios, known as Vkhutemas, and their pioneering curriculum that has been a source of inspiration for generations of architects, designers, and artists until the present day
1st edition, 2020
624 pages, 965 color and 80 b/w illustrations
24 x 31 cm
Throughout the 1920s and ’30s, the Higher Art and Technical Studios in Moscow, more commonly known as Vkhutemas, adopted what it called the “objective method” to facilitate instruction on a mass scale. The school was the first to implement mass art and technology education, which was seen as essential to the Soviet Union’s dominant modernist paradigm.
With Avant-Garde as Method, architect and historian Anna Bokov explores the nature of art and technology education in the Soviet Union. The pedagogical program at Vkhutemas, she shows, combined longstanding academic ideas and practices with more nascent industrial era ones to initiate a new type of pedagogy that took an explorative approach and drew its strength from continuous feedback and exchange between students and educators. Elaborating on the ways the Vkhutemas curriculum challenged established canons of academic tradition by replacing it with open-ended inquiry, Bokov then shows how this came to be articulated in architectural and urban projects within the school’s advanced studios.
Anna Bokov is an architect and architectural historian. She is faculty at the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of the Cooper Union, New York.
"Il volume di Anna Bokov contribuisce a svelare l’eccezionalità del Vkhutemas, oscurata – complici le barriere linguistiche e ideologiche – dalla fama del Bauhaus, la scuola tedesca divenuta sinonimo di sperimentazione e libertà. Come sottolinea Kenneth Frampton nella prefazione, parte degli insegnamenti di design e architettura del Bauhaus vedono le loro origini a Mosca. Nel 1927 Alfred H. Barr jr., primo direttore del MoMA di New York, commentava: ‘apparentemente non c’è posto in cui il talento di tipo artistico o letterario sia coltivato con tanta cura come a Mosca. Preferiremmo essere qui piuttosto che in qualsiasi altro posto sulla Terra’. Tuttavia, nel 1936 tralasciò il contributo del Vkhutemas nella mostra su Cubismo e Arte astratta: un’omissione ancora da colmare. " Gabriele Neri, Il Sole 24 Ore. Domenica
"Bokov’s comprehensive and richly illustrated account of Vkhutemas demonstrates that much of the teaching methodology associated with the Bauhaus was, in fact, first developed at this Soviet institution." Paul Mumford, Architectural Record