3D UNIT V: Scale and Context

Project VB Site-Specific Word

studio fundamentals: To introduce the concepts of scale, proportion, and context.

concepts: To explore the ability of sculptural form to convey "meaning."

technical: To introduce methods for moving easily between scales such as pattern making.


Project Overview Your challenge is to create a large-scale, "site-specific" sculpture from a letter or a word.

Project References


Jenny Holzer, Charles Simonds, Walter De Maria, Andy Goldsworthy, Claes Oldenberg, Chartres Cathedral, Nazca lines, Christo, Robert Indiana, Art and Language Group, Isamu Noguchi, Statues of Easter Island, Stonehenge, Eero Saarinen, Robert Smithson, Nancy Holt, Walter De Maria, Jody Pinto, Agnes Denes, Harvey Fite, Simon Rodia, Borobudur, Hitching Post of the Sun, Ian Hamilton Finley, The Great Image of Buddha, Maya Lin, Laurie Lundquist
Vocabulary scale, size, proportion, context, pattern, grid system, abstraction, site-specific, found object,



A scale model of your letter or word. A found object (optional). Use "dress maker paper" for patterns from non-planar objects. Construction paper or white butcher paper for grids. Large pieces of corrugated cardboard will be used for "blow ups" of planar forms. Latex house paint is cheap and works well as an undercoat... For organic forms, use materials such as cloth and sewing materials, styrofoam, construction adhesive or polyethelene sheeting and electric fan (for inflatable structures).


1. Before coming to class: Read the discussion Scale and Context for Unit V and the section on Protest and Persuasion in the Concepts section of the 3D matrix. Review the Project References above.

2. In-class exercise: Make a single letter or number into a 3D object 2" - 4" high out of construction paper. Translate this word/object into a scale model at least 4 times the size of the original from corrugated cardboard. (See guidelines for moving between scales).


a) Consider sites within walking distance from the classroom that hold some interest for you. Make a list of possible sites for a "site-specific sculpture."

b) After visiting at least three of your possible sites, select one as the basis for your project. Try to visit the site at different times of day. Observe how people use the site. You might interview people and get their reactions to the site. Try to find out something about the history and uses of the site. Write a description of your site (two page maximum; put into your notebook).

c) Using your description as a source, generate a list of letters and words that somehow relate to the site. Consider how the concept of "protesting or persuading" may be utilized in this project.

d) Select one letter or word as the basis for your project. This word should relate in some way to your selected site--as a label or sign, as an historical reference, as a humorous critique, etc.

e) Consider different ways in which your word/object could be inserted into your site. How will the scale and character of your object relate to your chosen context? How will its meaning change at different scales or in relation to different aspects of your site?

f) Analyze the formal properties of your word/object. Evaluate its potential for being "extruded" or otherwise transformed into a 3D object. How would the choice of different commercial fonts--or, alternatively, a letter of your own design--effect the meaning or formal properties of the word/object? Create a scale model of your word/object in construction paper and/or styrene plastic.

g) Using the techniques discussed in class (and on the web) create a 3D "blow-up" of your object. The enlarged word/object should be at least 4 times the size of your scale model (discuss particulars of final scale with instructor). How does the impact of the object change with regard to a change in scale?

NOTE: The "proportions" of the object must remain constant from youru scale model to your finished work. What does it mean to make a maquette or scale model at "1/4 scale"? Or a sculpture "4 times the size of the original model?" Your decision regarding scale should be derived from your chosen context.

h) Consider using different materials. How do certain materials amplify or undermine your intent? How could the use of particular materials help in creating a site-specific sculpture that would convey a particular meaning?

i) After securing appropriate approvals, insert the reduced or enlarged version of your object/monument into the site. Consider choosing a place in which the original function or meaning of the object is called into question--or generates a sense of surprise. Integrate it into its new context in such a way that the whole setting is transformed. Consider the difference between displaying the object prominently versus disguising the object. If it is impossible to get permission to install your sculpture, create a digital mock up in photoshop that inserts your sculpture into a digital photograph of your site virtually.

j) In your notebook, include documentation of your word/object as both a stand-alone piece and as a "site-specific" work.

j) Using your initial description of your site, your lists, your process, and your finished sculpture as resources, write a page describing your final project. Put this page into your notebook.

Optional: Include a blow up of a sculptural "found object" as part of your word/object (e.g., An actual sculptural hammer next to the word "Hardware" in 3D).

Critique Ideas


When you have completed your sculpture, pair up with another artist and trade critiques. Consider the following:

1. Describe the techniques used to create the sculptures and explain how various aspects of the problem were addressed such as material choice, the "monumental" character of the object, success at relating to the context, etc.

2. How effectively did the artist negotiate the design process?

3. Discuss ideas the artwork seems to communicate. After some sharing of interpretations, attempt to state the "message" of the design in one sentence. (This artwork is about. . .)



Your notebook should include the following:

1. Evidence of your research (print-outs from magazines, web searches, interviews with artists, list of sites, word lists, etc.).

2. Initial description of site.

3. Your design process (documentation of original object, method used to move between scales, drawings, computer-printouts, photos).

4. Supplemental materials (receipts, notes about technique or materials)

5. Documentation of the final work--both stand-along and on site.

6. One page description of the Final project.


The above project was developed by Dan Collins.

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