• From Method to Style: Elements of Spatial Composition and Architectural Pedagogy after Vkhutemas
    Anna Bokov
    Park Books, 2023
    Anna Bokov

Unknown (student), "Volumetric–Spatial Composition," ca. 1930s. Photograph. Courtesy MARKhI Museum. Photo: Ivan Lamtsov

This publication centers on the textbook, titled Elements of Spatial Composition, published in 1934 by a group of former Vkhutemas faculty, who sought to salvage the pedagogical methods of that avant-garde school at the onset of Stalin’s stylistic mandates in the Soviet Union. The means for achieving “realism” in architecture focused on the “appropriation of heritage,” which ranged from the application of stylized decor to wholesale repurposing of monumental historicist forms. The resultant architecture was no longer modern nor was it strictly historical, allowing one to view it as a “first post-modern” period. The publication aims to unpack the shift from modern design methodology to the uses of style as part of socialist realism during the early 1930s and examines this transitional moment  in  architecture not only in terms of its formal properties but also as a means of constructing state identity and shaping a totalitarian environment.

Anna Bokov is an architect, historian, and educator. She is a former member of the Center for Advanced Studies in Architecture at ETH Zurich and of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. She is on faculty at the Cooper Union and Parsons in New York. Bokov is a recipient of multiple awards, including a Graham Foundation grant and the Mellon Fellowship. Her scholarly work has been published widely including by Log, IAS, The Journal of Architecture, Perspecta, Walker Art Center, and MoMA. She holds a PhD from Yale University and MArch from Harvard Graduate School of Design. Bokov's award-winning book Avant-Garde as Method: Vkhutemas and the Pedagogy of Space, 1920–1930 (Park Books, 2020) is dedicated to the Soviet counterpart of the Bauhaus. Her book Lessons from the Social Condensers: 101 Soviet Workers’ Clubs and Spaces for Mass Assembly (gta Verlag, 2023) focuses on this distinct architectural typology.