What's your view? 

Rosie Right

A letter from a reader asks:

"Have heard a lot about the viewshed of the James in the debate over Dominion's Tredegar development. Is this perhaps a structure on Oregon Hill for enjoying the view?

"I didn't read viewshed in Style — I did hear it ad nauseam during the televised City Council hearing last week and thought it odd, although I do understand it to mean any area from which a particular view can be seen. Some of the speakers were using it when a simple 'view' would suffice, as in 'the building would block the viewshed of the river.' My daughter informs me that viewshed was routinely used in an urban-design program she participated in at the Harvard school of design this past summer, so we didn't just make it up here in Richmond. I still think it's a stretch!"

Rosie learned something from this letter: First, viewshed is not in her Webster's New World Dictionary, Fourth Edition, but it is a good bet it will be in the next edition. She looked it up on the Google Internet search engine and there were 1,720 sites on which she could read such gripping items as "Northern Geomantics, Inc., Appalachian Trail Viewshed Analysis."

She also called a knowledgeable architect who told her that viewshed is today a common word descriptive of your view if you are at a certain point. For example: what you see when you are at Monticello looking toward the University of Virginia. (Actually, this architect said, that view has certainly changed. Jefferson used to see his "academical village." Now he would see a big hospital.) The term has only been used recently — in the past 10 years. It came in as a planning term.

Watershed has, of course, an entirely different meaning. Webster's tells us that it is "a ridge or stretch of high land dividing the areas drained by different rivers or river systems; 2) the areas drained by a river or river system; and 3) a crucial turning point affecting action, opinion, etc."

Rosie tends to agree with her reader. "View from" or simply "view" would, in her opinion, suffice.

Let Rosie hear from you by telephone (358-0825, ext. 322), letter (1707 Summit Ave., Suite 201, Richmond, Va. 23230), or e-mail repps@styleweekly.com.


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