Exhibition

  • Vkhutemas: Laboratory of the Avant-Garde, 1920–1930
    Anna Bokov and Steven Hillyer
    Curators
    Arthur A. Houghton Jr. Gallery, The Cooper Union, New York
    Feb 01, 2022 to Mar 20, 2022
  • GRANTEE
    The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art-Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture
    GRANT YEAR
    2021

Nadezhda Kolpakova, “Color Solution for Architectural Volume,” 1928. Student exercise for Color course taught by Gustav Klutsis at Vkhutemas, 1928–29. Courtesy Museum of the Moscow Architectural Institute, Moscow

Active in Moscow in the 1920s, the Higher Art and Technical Studios, known as Vkhutemas, translated radical experiments in art, architecture, and design into a systematized body of knowledge. This educational undertaking of unprecedented scale and complexity served as one of the major platforms for the institutionalization of the avant-garde movement. Vkhutemas: Laboratory of the Avant-Garde, 1920–1930 examines this interdisciplinary design school through the lens of an ideological campaign for mass education and traces the development of a new pedagogical model based on the school’s “objective method.” Although Vkhutemas is often referred to as the Russian Bauhaus, the two schools had substantially different futures. While much attention has been given to the Bauhaus, Vkhutemas fell into obscurity for nearly a century. This exhibition commemorates the school’s decade-long existence and seeks to rediscover its vast creative legacy within the history of Modernism.

Anna Bokov holds a doctorate from Yale University, an MArch from Harvard University, and a bachelor’s in architecture from Syracuse University. She has taught at The Cooper Union, Parsons, Cornell University, Yale University, Northeastern University, Harvard Graduate School of Design, and Moscow Architectural Institute. Bokov worked as an architect and urban designer with OMA, NBBJ, Ennead, and the City of Somerville, among others. She served as an editor for Project Russia and Project International magazines. She has received a Mellon Fellowship and a Beinecke Research Grant at Yale and is a member at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. Her work has been published by The Journal of Architecture, Perspecta, Walker Art Center Primer, The Museum of Modern Art 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), focuses on the Russian counterpart of the Bauhaus and its groundbreaking educational experiments.

Steven Hillyer is the director of The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture Archive. During his 30-year career at The Cooper Union he has assisted and led the curation, design, and installation of 35 exhibitions at the college and abroad. Hillyer has presented the work of distinguished architects such as Raimund Abraham, John Hejduk, Louis I. Kahn, Josef Kleihues, Daniel Libeskind, Carlo Scarpa, Michael Webb, and Lebbeus Woods—often working directly with them. His international work includes exhibitions at Prague Castle, the Netherlands Architecture Institute, and the Canadian Centre for Architecture. Hillyer's exhibitions have also featured artists Mary Kelly, Robert Slutzky, and Torkwase Dyson, and photographers J. Henry Fair and Margaret Morton. Hillyer has been instrumental in building the Architecture Archive’s core resource—its Student Work Collection, much of which is now publicly accessible online. He received his Bachelor of Architecture degree from The Cooper Union in 1990.

Chris Dierks, the archive’s collection manager and grants liaison, is coordinator for the development and installation of Vkhutemas: Laboratory of the Avant-Garde, 1920–1930. He has been instrumental in fundraising for the archive’s exhibitions and publications, most notably the Student Work Collection Digital Access Project. Dierks previously worked as the archivist for Acconci Studio, a Brooklyn-based architecture and design office, and as the archive manager for Van Alen Institute's Design Archive. He has served as a consultant for several New York-based nonprofit design organizations and received his bachelor’s in architecture from Princeton University.

Founded by inventor, industrialist, and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture, and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences. The Cooper Union is dedicated to Peter Cooper’s radical commitment to diversity and his founding vision that fair access to an inspiring free education and forums for courageous public discourse foster a just and thriving world. The mission is to sustain The Cooper Union as a free center of learning and civic discourse that inspires inventive, creative, and influential voices in architecture, art, and engineering to address the critical challenges and opportunities of our time.