OBMAS (ОБМАС) – United studios

OBMAS (ОБМАС) – United studios were formed in the fall of 1920 at the VKHUTEMAS faculty of architecture by the leader of rationalism N. Ladovsky and his associates, Vladimir Krinsky and Nikolai Dokuchaev. The foundations of the studio’s ideological component were laid in the Commission of synthesis of painting, sculpture and architecture (Живскульптарх) of of the Council of People’s Commissars for Education in the Synthesis of Arts group in 1919, where the interaction of architecture, sculpture and painting was examined. An important role in the search for new creative concepts was played by Boris Korolev and the activities of the sculptural association of the Second Free State Art Studios (1919-1920) headed by him, which were visited by Ladovsky, Dokuchaev and others.It was in Obmas, created for the experimental study of these ideas and the training of the “new generation” of architects, where one of the main innovative disciplines of that time was formed – the “Space” discipline, which had an invaluable impact on architectural and artistic education. 

OBMAS’ pedagogical and creative concept, the “psychoanalytic method”, was based on two principles: the definition of “space” as the main material of architecture and the recognition of the paramount importance of the perception of architecture by a person.

OBMAS’ lasted for three years. Each academic year Ladovsky reviews the course methodically, making improvements and supplements to it. The structure of the new propaedeutic course was based on the alternation of abstract (work with abstract geometric volumetric forms) and industrial (design of architectural objects) tasks, which students solved to identify particular properties of forms and space (geometric properties, mass and weight, rhythms and proportions in space). The alternation of tasks made it possible to apply the experience of working with an abstract form and elaborated compositional techniques in the design of real architectural objects. Another distinctive feature of the discipline is the presentation of abstract and industrial objects in the form of models or perspective images. The introduction of such a design method made it possible to fully develop students’ spatial thinking and create new techniques and means of artistic expression. Thus, a new three-dimensional spatial language of architecture was gradually formed in the studios.

At the same time, Ladovsky creates a curriculum for senior courses, since many students who have studied in the first and second courses in Zholtovsky’s and Schusev’s studios are transferred to Obmas in addition to newly arrived students. In 1920 V. Balikhin, S. Mochalov, V. Krasilnikov, G. Goltz, N. Tikhonov came to the studios. Ladovsky had to take into consideration students’ previously acquired knowledge and apply the psychoanalytic method more rapidly. The following were proposed by students as subjects for undergraduate work for 1920-1921: a large public building on the square of a big city (library by Mochalov and Balikhin), a project for “architectural processing of Nikitsky Boulevard” (Golts and Tikhonov), residential building for two apartments (Krasilnikov). The design system assumed the comprehension of the form following the example of propaedeutic and production tasks for identifying particular compositional properties. Initially, students were asked to come up with the basic concept in sketches. Then the model was made in clay (using cardboard, paper and other materials), and finally, the final version of the model was measured, and drawings were made based on it. At the same time, traditionalists worked with a flat drawing, projections, and the model was considered only as a rendering of a completed project into volume. By introducing compositional tasks based on a logical analysis of the form, Ladovsky wanted his students to develop original ideas, rather than copying existing architectural monuments.

With the formation of the Main Course, the “Space” discipline was adopted by the study council of VKHUTEMAS as a compulsory subject for all faculties. The abstract tasks were given in the first year, industrial tasks – in the second, with consideration of students’ speciality. Ladovsky and Dokuchaev taught only at the faculty of architecture at that time, continuing to develop their ideas of rationalism in more complex spatial projects of senior students. Krinsky with students of the first flow of Obmas (Lamtsov, Turkus, Petrov and others) lead the Space course. They will restore the ideas of the discipline in the course of the three-dimensional composition of the Moscow Institute of Architecture in the 1960s.