Prospect is an unimpeded
view over a distance for
surveillance and planning

THe eXPeRIenCe

A space with a good Prospect condition feels open and freeing, yet imparts a sense of safety and control, particularly when alone or in unfamiliar environments.


The Prospect pattern has evolved from research on visual preference and spatial habitat responses, as well as cultural anthropology, evolutionary psychology and architectural analysis. Health benefits are suggested to include reductions in stress, boredom, irritation, fatigue and perceived vulnerability; as well as improved comfort.
Distant prospect (>100 feet, >30 meters) is preferred over shorter focal lengths (<20 feet, 6 meter) because it provides a greater sense of awareness and comfort (Herzog & Bryce, 2007), reducing one’s stress responses, particularly when alone or in unfamiliar environments (Petherick, 2000). Good Prospect is extensive and information rich, with a savanna-like view.


The objective of the Prospect pattern is to provide users a condition suitable for visually surveying and contemplating the surrounding environment for both opportunity and hazard. In landscapes, prospect is characterized as the view from an elevated position or across an expanse. While an elevated position can enhance (indoor and outdoor) prospect, it is not essential to creating a quality prospect experience. There are potentially endless combinations for applying characteristics of prospect (Dosen & Ostwald, 2013). There is interior prospect, exterior prospect, as well as short depth and high depth prospect that can occur simultaneously. The complexity and variety of ways to achieve prospect is what makes it such a powerful design
element. For interior spaces or dense urban spaces, prospect is the ability to see from one space to another, and is strengthened when there are clear distinctions and the opportunity to see through multiple spaces (Hildebrand, 1991).
Design considerations that may help create a quality Prospect condition:

  • Orienting building, fenestration, corridors and workstations will help optimize visual access to indoor or outdoor vistas, activity hubs or destinations.
  • Designing with or around an existing or planned savanna-like ecosystem, body of water, and evidence of human activity or habitation will help the information-richness of the prospect view.
  • Providing focal lengths of ≥20 feet (6 meters), preferably 100 feet (30 meters); when a space has sufficient depth, spatial properties can be leveraged to enhance the experience by removing visual barriers. Limiting partition heights to 42” will provide spatial barriers while allowing seated occupants to view across a space. understory vegetation or hedges should use a similar guide; preferred height limitations will depend on terrain and how the space is most experienced (e.g., while sitting, standing, on a bicycle)
  • Locating stairwells at building perimeter with glass façade and interior glass stairwell walls can form a dual prospect condition.
  • When high ceilings are present, perimeter or interior spaces elevated 12-18” will enhance the Prospect condition.
  • Often the view quality and the balance between Prospect and Refuge will be more important than the size or frequency of the experience.
  • Refer to [P1] visual Connection with nature to optimize the Prospect experience with a quality view.

Example Characteristics

Spatial Attributes
• Focal lengths ≥ 20 feet (6 meters)
• Partition heights ≤ 42 inches (hedges; opaque workplace partitions)

Common features
• Transparent materials
• Balconies, catwalks, staircase landings
• Open floor plans
• Elevated planes
• Views including shade trees, bodies of water or evidence of human habitation

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