Barbara Schleuning, a student who accompanied me to Italy for the September class I taught for Il Chiostro, just sent me a book: Natural Light and the Italian Piazza by Sandra Davis Lakeman. It's a brilliant book of photos and text about the siting of Italian piazze and the impact of the light on the people who live in and experience the towns of Italy. She talks mostly about the Campo in Siena-- one of the more interesting points she makes is that the Mangia Tower in Siena acts like a sundial, casting its shadow from morning to evening across the Campo. I didn't spend an entire day in Siena during our visit, so was unable to see that for myself, but when we were in Assisi, we spent enough time walking across the Piazza Santa Chiara to observe some marvelous light effects there. Above left is my photo of the flying buttresses of Santa Chiara in the morning.
To the right is my photo of one of the buttresses in very early evening, beginning to exhibit the "pietra rosa di Assisi" effects described to me by my Italian friend, Simona, who writes the blog Briciole. Each of these photos has a very different feeling and its own story to tell. The morning view is sharp and clear, full of the business of the coming day, white stone seen against blue sky and clouds, optimistic and no-nonsense.The early evening view is dark, a little melancholy, yet beautiful as it glows with sunset hues, and it reveals that we have lived another entire day, which is coming to an end. Lakeman's book is about how light and shade and its movement through each day, each different season, give not only form to architecture, but meaning to life.