Assistant Professor Adjunct
Anna Bokov is an architect and architecture historian. She is a fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in Architecture at the ETH Zurich (2021-22) and is a former member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (2020-21). She has taught at the City College and Parsons in New York, and at Cornell, Yale, Northeastern, and Harvard Universities. She worked as an architect and urban designer at OMA, NBBJ, Ennead, and the City of Somerville. Anna is a recipient of multiple awards, including the Mellon Fellowship, the Beinecke Research Grant, and the Graham Foundation publication and exhibition grants. Her scholarly work has been published by Log, IAS Letter, The Journal of Architecture, Perspecta, Walker Art Center Primer, MoMA Post, Palimpsest, Venice Biennale, Bauhaus Dessau Foundation, and Bauhaus-Universität Weimar. She holds a Ph.D. from Yale University, a Master of Architecture from Harvard Graduate School of Design, and a Bachelor of Architecture from Syracuse University.
Anna's recent award-winning book Avant-Garde as Method: Vkhutemas and the Pedagogy of Space, 1920–1930 (Zurich: Park Books, 2020) is dedicated to the Soviet counterpart of the Bauhaus. She is currently working on two new publications. One, titled From Method to Style: Elements of Spatial Composition in the 1930s focuses on design pedagogy in the post-Vkhutemas decade and the attack on formalism in architecture. The other, titled Atlas of the Social Condensers, 1917-1941 explores the agency of architecture to shape society by unpacking the typology of the social condenser.
View Anna Bokov's full CV here.
Teaching Architecture to the Masses: VKhUTEMAS in the 1920s
Yale University, PhD Program, New Haven, CT
14th International Architecture Biennale, Venice, IT
Moscow Architectural Institute, Moscow
Harvard Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, MA
This research is the subject of a doctoral dissertation that examines the history of design pedagogy through the lens of the Higher Art and Technical Studios, known as VKhUTEMAS, active in Moscow in the 1920s. VKhUTEMAS was a platform for institutionalization of the avant-garde movement - an educational experiment of unprecedented scale and complexity that distilled radical experiments in art, architecture and design into a systematized pedagogy.
The dissertation explores the mass character of early twentieth century design education in Soviet Russia as a formative condition for the modern paradigm. It traces the emergence of a kind of pedagogy, which instead of copying a form asks to articulate and, ultimately, invent a new form. VKhUTEMAS created a standardized, universally applicable approach, in order to train large numbers of students, and to render unnecessary the figure of all-knowing master, instead developing an ostensibly objective, scientifically based method. The central figures in this undertaking - the architect and pedagogue Nikolay Ladovsky advocated for a “rational” knowledge of architecture based on, what he posed as universal principles of spatial form. Their colleagues, Kandinsky, Rodchenko, Lissitzky and Ginzburg, were particularly instrumental in shaping the Rationalist doctrine through theorization, teaching, design and critique. All them taught at Vkhutemas at different moments.
Lessons from the Social Condensers: Soviet Workers’ Clubs
Moscow Architectural Institute
/with Arseny Afonin, Olga Krukovskaya, Kirill Lebedev/
This ongoing research project initially conceived of as part of the diploma studios taught at the Moscow Architecture Institute. In Moscow and the surrounding region there are currently over a hundred workers’ clubs and palaces of culture, built between 1920s and 1930s. Today these buildings range from total decrepitude to active use. Some have gained a landmark status while others are being adapted for different uses. Their adjacent territories, which typically housed essential club functions, such as sports fields and playgrounds, are often subject to new development. The studios investigated the programmatic, organizational, and architectural qualities of the typology as a whole and studied the specific histories and formal attributes of a selection of these buildings. Students performed on-site research, documented the existing buildings and produced three-dimensional architectural analysis. Research included mapping of the clubs around Moscow, performing comparisons of the buildings and their surrounding territories, and analyzing their link to the urban fabric. Archival investigations were conducted using historical maps and photographs, as well as period publications and magazines.
Cornell New York Studio
/with Mitchell Joachim/
The studio takes a close look at the relationship between the design school as an evolving program and the environment that houses it. In this light, a design school is not just a neutral background or a static container but rather an active agent, engaged in the life of a school on a number of levels. It shapes the ways in which students interact with faculty and with each other. It plays a fundamental, if silent role in promoting collective activities and supporting individual pursuits. It functions as a bridge between the germ of experiment, present at the heart of all innovative schools, and the perpetuation of tradition, a vital sign of any reputable institution. Ultimately, it is the grafting of those pedagogical practices onto their environment that not only makes a place, but also gives rise to and shapes the ever-present, yet intangible culture of a school, and its unique disciplinary form - studio culture.
City as Interior: From the Soviet Avant-Garde to Contemporary Megapolis
Moscow Architectural Institute
/with Daria Kovaleva, Sergey Nebotov, Gleb Vitkov/
This research project, developed as part of the diploma studio that investigates the origins and fundamental components of the contemporary urban fabric, using Moscow as a case study. It is framed in terms of four basic architectural typologies: transportation terminal, office complex, housing development, and recreation center. These typologies in turn form a basis for an urban approach that was not about a static urban ensemble but rather about a series of local measures for improving the dynamically changing urban fabric.
The goal was not to mimic the avant-garde aesthetic but rather to reveal and interpret the values that were introduced at the time, such as, integrating public space. Public space became a unifying factor for all four typologies and plays a defining role in each of the design typologies. In addition to the historical analysis of the avant-garde, a significant importance was placed on studying the site and existing context as well as on formulating the programmatic requirements and spatial connections.
/with Daria Kovaleva/
Made from easily available materials, such as plaster, wax, or plastics, these studies are a result of an experimental studio practice that fuses the programmed, the accidental, and the intentional. The process is structured as a synthesis of simple geometries in dialogue with physical laws, such as gravity or tension, through the use of basic operational algorithms. Diversity of organic forms, structures, and textures, a result of countless natural processes - chemical, geological, biological – served as a reference for the project, defining a selection of typologies and templates. The resulting forms invite associations with structures and formations created by natural processes such as growth, decomposition, or erosion; others recall activity of biological species such as anthills, beehives, or corals. The focus of the studies is on the process of making as much as on form, linking the work with nature in fundamental ways, that are both proto - and post-sustainable.