Effective Viewing Distance for Sculpture

During a discussion about placing a sculpture in the small park at Fourth Street NW and Blair Road, referred to as the triangle park, I was sent this diagram of the effective viewing distance for sculpture in relation to its size. It may be from Jan Gehl’s paper “Close Encounters with Buildings.” Apologies if posting it violates any copyrights. Our decision is approaching and this information might be helpful.

Chart of Optimum Viewing Distance for Sculputure

A meter is a bit more than 3 feet. If the sculpture in question is 10 feet tall, it would beĀ  3+ meters. Effective viewing would be about 5 meters or 15+ feet. If it were placed against the Barack building to the south, it could be viewed comfortably from the front of the park or the street. That’s if it’s 10 feet tall and if could be placed there without affecting the one remaining tree which is close to that wall. How close can a heavy object be placed to a tree without damaging the root structure? How will be sculpture be affected by birds in that tree?

The sculpture may also be on a base when it is installed. Sculptures are often put on bases not to make them taller and more impressive but to protect them from casual vandalism. A three-foot base would mean an effective viewing distance of an additional three feet of viewing space. We could be up to 20 feet. Anyone sitting or standing in the park would not have the most effective view of the Hand.

Retaining Human Scale and Honoring the Sculpture

If the goal is to eventually have a park in which a variety of people can sit and enjoy the flowers and, hopefully, new Cherry Trees, the Hand could be a pretty overbearing presence. The Hand would also not be well served by being hidden behind Cherry Trees. An oasis of green at that corner isn’t compatible with that size sculpture. It and the neighborhood would be better served with a placement in front of the Takoma Recreation Center.

By Sharon Villines

Artist and Writer with too many interests living in Washington DC.