Architecture Through a Different Lens

Kris Barkley

November 2, 2021

The process of drawing, painting, or shooting art photography of something necessarily involves looking at the subject matter through a different lens than what we normally use when interacting with the world around us. Looking deeper and truly “seeing” something involves activation at a level that often serves to create a greater understanding of what is being observed.

2021 First Place Winner, Steven Tze

It was this notion, and a desire for more awareness of architecture by the greater architectural community in Sacramento, that led to creation of a program to encourage people to engage with our built environment more effectively, and truly notice the buildings around us.

2013 Submission, Rudy Calpo, AIA

Though many of us like to sketch, photography remains the most accessible art form available to nearly everyone. With the advent of digital photography and high-quality phone cameras, nearly all of us have access to some form of camera and are engaged in capturing images of our experiences. Thoughtfully capturing images of buildings has never been easier so why not encourage architects and non-architects alike in a celebration of design and history?

2017 Submission, Charles McDonald

Ten years ago, I began development of a brief for an architectural photography competition to be staged by the American Institute of Architects Central Valley Chapter (AIACV). The Architectura Obscura competition was launched in 2012 and has been a part of the AIACV’s Experience Architecture Week (EAW) event continuously since its inception that same year.

“Architectura” is a reference to “De Architectura” (“On Architecture” or The Ten Books of Architecture) by the Roman architect Vitruvius, the earliest known publication on architectural theory. “Obscura” relates to the process of photography where an image is projected through a lens or small aperture.

The goal of this competition is to elevate our perceptions of the built environment and create awareness of design and its effect on the human condition. The competition goals are simply defined as follows: Increase awareness of architecture and design; provide a stronger connection of non-architects to the profession of architecture; and provide a creative outlet that can be experienced by all who participate.

2018 Submission, Saxon Sigerson, AIA

Each year we receive dozens of printed and mounted images for the competition. A jury reviews each submission and selects winning images based on composition, content, use of color or contrast, response to the stated theme, and print quality. The winning images along with all other gallery quality submissions are then displayed in a public place for viewing. This year our gallery space is located in the recently completed offices of the American Institute of Architects, California and will remain on display through the end of the year.

The core focus of the competition remains tied to production of gallery-quality prints but in 2016 we added an all-digital component of submissions through Instagram. With Comstock’s Magazine and the local Instagram community as partners, we now engage a broad spectrum of photographers, thereby creating a means for nearly everyone to participate. With submissions in the hundreds, this part of the program not only raises awareness of architecture to a higher level, but it also serves as a great celebration of our region.

2015 Submission, Peter Saucerman, AIA

This year’s opening event was part of the Design|Access event, and the photos remain on display at the American Institute of Architects, California (AIACA) Headquarters at 1931 H Street in midtown Sacramento.

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