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Natural Light and the Italian Piazza

Pozzo OrvietoThis is the work of Architect, Educator and Photographer, Sandra Davis Lakeman, Professor of Architecture at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California. For fifteen years, Prof. Lakeman has concentrated on the study of NATURAL LIGHT AND THE ITALIAN PIAZZA, in design theory classes, documentary photography, and in Civic Architecture Design Studios. The educational goal in her work has been to intensify an AWARENESS of LIGHT in the student or viewer through an increased perception of light, one begins "to think" and "to design" with LIGHT as the central design component. This manner of research, empirical in nature, led to an existential viewpoint of LIGHT as the provider of reality. NATURAL LIGHT became symbolically the artistic perception of the place, or the intuition that one feels when "thinking about" or "being within" the place. Attempts to capture "the moment" and "the essence of the place," to reflect timelessness, immortality, and the continuity of life, are all means of forming a philosophy of "being," and of understanding the meaning of Life, a primary human need.

Throughout the work runs a theme of Timelessness, Permanence and Impermanence, and the dicotomy of Temporality and Immortality. The issue of the fourth dimension, TIME, is expressed in images of Spatial Distance and Lapse of Time series.

The strong medieval architecture of Italy is shown at its finest; symbolic intrinsic and extrinsic meanings are represented within the materials and forms of its structures. This analysis of Natural Light and the Italian milieu, exemplifies a faultless relationship between the Earth and Built Forms, the cycle of Life and Death, and the Fragility and Momentary Existence of Humankind. These exemplar images strengthen the need for a significant mixture of economic, social, political, cultural and artistic decisions to be made judiciously in architecture and urban planning in our own time.

The subject matter of this photographic exhibition has been organized in a didactic manner similar to Gothic Civic Art, in that the PHENOMENA OF LIGHT section, visually explains the Characteristics of Light through the subject matter, the Architectural Elements o the Gothic Civic Realm. This provides the viewer with the vocabulary of LIGHT and ARCHITECTURE from the aspect Of art and science. The section, SIENA, AS A CASE-STUDY presents an analysis of the use of Light in a manner particular to the architecture and the function of its principal square, the world's finest, the Piazza del Campo. It is presented in an intensive visual study of the reactions of people to the architectural consequences of light and shadow.

This work represents research from 1975, supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, the L.J. Skaggs and Mary C. Skaggs Foundation, and numerous on-campus grants from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo. The research photography was completed during the years 1983-1990 in Italy.


Sandra Davis Lakeman was born in Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania and raised in historic Marietta, Ohio. Educated in Architecture at the University of Cincinnati, she completed the Masters of Architecture program at the University of Oregon. An NCARB registered architect, practicing in Ohio, Massachusetts, Oregon, Arizona, and California, she has taught at the University of Arizona and California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, where she holds a tenured position as Professor of Architecture.