Mirrors and Mass: Wayne Thom’s Southern California

USC Students and Emily Bills

  • SP.18
  • Level: undergraduate
  • Discipline: Heritage Conservation

Developed under the guidance of architectural historian Emily Bills, who taught the course, the exhibition showcases Thom’s Southern California work from the start of his career in 1968 to 1979, roughly corresponding to the class’ timeframe and geographic focus. The class, which includes students from USC’s Architecture, Heritage Conservation, and Real Estate Development programs, seeks engagement with the photographs to promote the importance of preserving Southern California’s contributions to this overlooked period in skyscraper, civic, and campus design. Thom’s photographs provide compelling evidence of this contribution, from the region’s experiments in mirror-glass surfaces seen in John Portman’s Bonaventure Hotel, to the possibilities of poured concrete construction found in William Pereira & Associates’ Geisel Library.


The students worked cooperatively to develop all aspects of the online exhibition. They selected photographs, conducted archival research, wrote didactic text, conceptualized the visitor experience, and helped install the exhibition on Scalar, an open source publishing platform developed at USC. One group of students interviewed Thom, creating unique video footage of the photographer speaking about his work; it will become part of Thom’s archive in the USC Libraries’ Special Collections.

Faculty advisor:

Emily Bills


Rachel Trombetta

Krista Nicholds

Deepeaka Dhaliwal

Erik Van Breene

Maddy Campbell

Kasey Viso

Erika Kronk

Drew Ericsen

Camille Elston

Sarah Castro

Po Lao

Jared Dror

Stefen Chraghchian

Erika Ruan

Duke Dunham

Cory Singer

Richard Wenzel

Harrison St. Jean

Alexander Moore

Andy Chau

Christopher Brown

Technical and design support:

Curtis Fletcher