Assess Your Space

“The architecture of the church is usually our clue for scale. The over-scale, large soaring space moves our human boundaries to places of imagination and spirit.”
— Nancy Chinn [1]

Height + Width + Length + Your canvas: The Importance of Scale

Determining the size of your space cannot be overemphasized. A banner which looks enormous before installation might look like a cocktail flag when it is raised into position. Granted, gauging the height of a lofty ceiling from the floor is difficult, and without access to blueprints or information from someone who knows, the risk of underestimating the appropriate size of an art installation is great. So, what’s the solution?

“Measuring the height of a church ceiling can be done a couple of different ways,” says Larry Hoy, of Lawrence Hoy Studios. Architects seeking a precise measurement use laser distance measuring tools which, depending on the quality of the tool, can be accurate to 1/16″. But, for the purpose of determining scale for non-architectural artwork, Hoy recommends simply making an initial measurement from the floor (6 ft for example) and then by standing back with one arm extended straight out from the shoulder use a finger or hand as a gauge to estimate the height of the space.

Determining the height of a space using a stick

isoceles right triangle copyAnother similar method can be done with a stick. This throwback to geometry class is the same method arborists use to measure the height of a tree. Stand at a distance from the object you want to measure. Square your shoulders and stretch your arm in front of you while holding a yardstick or dowel along the length of your arm, parallel with the ground. Align the end of the stick with your eye. Then, without letting go oft he stick or changing your grip, turn the stick upright, perpendicular to the ground. Step backwards until the base of the wall you are measuring aligns with the top of your fist and the ceiling aligns with the top of the stick. take note of where you are standing and measure the distance between you and the wall. This is equal to the approximate ceiling height


[1] Nancy Chinn, Spaces for Sprit: Adorning the Church,  First Edition (Chicago, IL: Liturgy Training Publications, 1998) 28.

[2] Larry Hoy (President at Renovata Studios Inc. at the time), in discussion with the author, April, 2014.

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