Vale named chair of undergraduate architecture

Interdisciplinary architect founded Constance Vale Studio, The Factory of Smoke & Mirrors

Constance Vale is chair of undergraduate architecture at the Sam Fox School. (Photo: James Byard/Washington University)

Constance Vale has been named chair of undergraduate architecture at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis.

Vale, who joined the Sam Fox School as an assistant professor in 2017, previously taught at SCI-Arc and the University of California, Los Angeles. She is a licensed architect and director of the architectural practice Constance Vale Studio as well as the experimental research office The Factory of Smoke & Mirrors.

“In research, practice and teaching, Constance investigates how our aesthetic and conceptual approaches shape and reshape the ways we see the world,” said Carmon Colangelo, the Ralph J. Nagel Dean of the Sam Fox School. “An exemplary collaborator, her work inhabits the space between architecture, art, theater and emerging technology. We are extremely proud to welcome her to this leadership role.”

Vale succeeds Igor Marjanović, who recently was appointed dean of Rice Architecture at Rice University.

A testing platform for autonomous driving, developed by Vale and Yevgeniy Vorobeychik. (Photo: Constance Vale)

Vale earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 2007 from Parsons School of Design and a master’s in architecture in 2014 from the Yale School of Architecture. Before launching her own studio, Vale practiced at EDGE Studio in Pittsburgh and Ennead Architecture in New York. In 2015, she collaborated with Emmett Zeifman to complete a temporary pavilion in downtown Los Angeles for the experimental opera “Hopscotch.”

This spring, Constance Vale Studio was selected by competition to join an international array of firms designing residences for On Olive, the contemporary housing development in midtown St. Louis. The 3.5-acre project is led by Emily Rauh Pulitzer and by Steve Trampe’s Owen Development, with a masterplan by Tatiana Bilbao ESTUDIO. Other participating firms include MOS Architecture, Höweler + Yoon, Michael Maltzan Studio, Marcias Peredo, Productora Architects and Atelier Cory Henry, as well as St. Louis’ Michael Benz Architects and Mitchell-Wall Architecture.

Vale’s Factory of Smoke & Mirrors currently is collaborating with Yevgeniy Vorobeychik, associate professor of computer science at the university’s McKelvey School of Engineering, to create a 1:8 scale physical-testing platform for improving the safety of self-driving vehicles and speculating on the potential architectural impact of their implementation in cities. Earlier this year, Vale curated a related exhibition, “The Autonomous Future of Mobility, for the Teaching Gallery at the university’s Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum.

Design by Constance Vale Studio for On Olive, a 3.5-acre contemporary housing development in midtown St. Louis. (Photo: Constance Vale)

Vale is editor and co-author, with Marcelo Spina and Georgina Huljich, of the Graham Foundation-supported book “Mute Icons & Other Dichotomies of the Real in Architecture” (2021). The symposium “Decoys and Depictions: Images of the Digital,” which Vale developed for the Sam Fox School in Fall 2019, built upon this research. Vale is the recipient of a Fall 2021 MacDowell Fellowship, and will be using her residency to work on a publication drawing on the ideas developed in “Decoys and Depictions.”

“With ‘Decoys and Depictions,’ Constance brought together faculty and scholars from across the country to explore digital images as vehicles for the production of form, building components and mechanisms of discovery that provide architects and artists new audiences for social and political change,” said Heather Woofter, director of the Sam Fox School’s College of Architecture and Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design. “That rigor of inquiry and multidisciplinary ethos exemplify Constance’s work, which beautifully aligns with our undergraduate architecture students — hopeful, energetic and committed to humane design futures.”

Vale’s work has been exhibited at the A+D Museum, The Sheldon Art Galleries and the Farrell Learning & Teaching Center, among others. Her work has been published in The Journal of the American Institute of Architects, the Los Angeles Times, Archinect and CLOG.