October 16, 2019

"Decoys & Depictions: Images of the Digital" symposium

Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis

Image by Constance Vale, symposium organizer and assistant professor, Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, Washington University in St. Louis.

Keynote lectures: Nader Tehrani: Dean, The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture, The Cooper Union; Principal, NADAAA / Brett Steele: Dean, UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture

In architecture today, nothing is what it seems. Familiar outputs in the form of drawings, models, and photographs are now produced through sophisticated digital tools and techniques. And though these products of electronic imaging may seem like replicas of their predecessors, they are in fact something entirely new.

So argues Constance Vale, assistant professor of architecture in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis. From October 24–26, Vale will convene “Decoys & Depictions: Images of the Digital,” a symposium exploring how digital images are constructed; the implications for how architects and artists operate; and the potential effects within social and political realms.

“Decoys are objects that share characteristics with images,” Vale said. “Depictions are images that have the qualities of objects.” Yet, unlike traditional representations, both decoys and depictions are primarily shaped by hidden matrixes of informational formats, frameworks, and data sets. “They are attuned to the visual world for only a fraction of their existence,” she added.

For architects and artists, Vale said, these new data-driven modes raise important questions.

“How can a deeper understanding of electronic imaging and the ongoing technological developments therein reshape how we design and build?” she asked. “How might we reconsider conventional methods of display in relation to the circulation of images through social networking and web-based media?

“How can examining images closely change how we structure design pedagogy?”

Schedule and registration
Presented by the Sam Fox School’s College of Architecture and Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design, “Decoys & Depictions” will investigate the effects of digital imaging on contemporary practice through lectures, panel sessions, and exhibitions. The more than two dozen participants will include Sam Fox School architecture and art faculty as well as visiting architects from across the country.

Highlights of the symposium will include keynote lectures by Nader Tehrani, dean of The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at The Cooper Union in New York (October 25), and Brett Steele, dean of the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture in Los Angeles (October 26). Panel sessions will focus on “Image Frames,” “Image Fictions,” “Image Formats,” and “Image Accumulations."

All lectures and panels will take place in Anabeth and John Weil Hall, the Sam Fox School’s new state-of-the-art facility for cross-disciplinary study. Events will be livestreamed via the symposium website.

Three related exhibitions, curated by Vale, will open in conjunction with the symposium.

The first of these, at the Sam Fox School's Des Lee Gallery, will feature projects by more than 30 architects and artists—the majority of whom are participants in the conference proceedings. Included are works from O-S-A, Current Interests, Young & Ayata, Amanda Bowles, FreelandBuck, Michelle JaJa Chang, Somewhere Studio, Sage Dawson, Design Earth, Jonathan Hanahan, Amy Hauft, Derek Hoeferlin Design, Petra Kempf, Axi:Ome, Ruy Klein, Medium Architecture, MILLIØNS, Emiliano López Mónica Rivera Arquitectos, Architecture Office, WOJR, Patricia Olynyk, EXTENTS, Tim Portlock, Jack Risley, Curtis Roth, RUR, Buzz Spector, P-A-T-T-E-R-N-S, Jonathan Stitelman, NADAAA, Hans Tursack, The Factory of Smoke & Mirrors, Van Dyck Murphy Studio, and Ultramoderne. The exhibition will open October 24 and remain on view through November 16.

Other exhibitions will feature work by WashU architecture students as well as holdings from the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum’s permanent collection, including examples by Sophie Calle, Nick Cave, Trevor Paglen, Kiki Smith, and Wolfgang Tillmans.

All events are free and open to the public, but registration is requested. For a complete schedule, visit

Thank you!

An email with a confirmation link has been sent to the email address you entered. To complete your subscription, click this link.