Some recent encounters with several exhibits and experiences have been a reminder of the magic and impact that playing with scale can have on us and is a reminder that this is an important tool in the out “tool box” here at ALCHEMY studio and for other designers.

Scale forces us to reevaluate the importance of the object or the importance of ourselves. We can experience the “impossible.”

The purposes of this discussion refer to the idea of scale reference a parameter of an object’s size. By object we might mean the “artifact” that is the exhibit or we may mean the an environmental piece that sets a context for an exhibition

Here are two recent examples encountered at the Walker Art Center

Making something big:









Folding chair Robert Therrien

Photos: Wayne LaBar and Paul Schmelzer; Walker Art Center blog



Making something small















Maurizio Cattelan Untitled

Photos : Wayne LaBar


Mulling on this and thinking of other successful examples used by other museums such as the giant heart at the Franklin Institute, the images we see on in IMAX and giant screen films or on the small scale   the model railroads at the Carnegie Science Center, the Lego amusement worlds found over the globe it – what is it that attracts us to this and often makes these experiences memorable and extraordinary.  In addition, there are times when this fails. Numerous are the examples of large “walk through human bodies” that never seem to rise above a feeling of “fake” or “schlock.” Detail , quality and immersiveness are key

So some observation on successful uses of scale.


  • Allows us to appreciate detail and form we normally can’t see or ignore
  • Allows us to explore places physically that are normally inaccessible
  • Allows us to reevaluate the importance of the object or the importance of ourselves
  • Allows us to experience the ” impossible”, the unusual, the imaginary
  • Allows us possibly to harken back to our childhood, as adults, and re-experience the discovery of scale

What other ideas come to mind about the power of these playful, thoughtful and imaginative uses of scale?

Posted in: Experiences and Museums

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