Towering silently above the passers-by on Pennsylvania Avenue, "Ethnic Man" gazes downward calmly, attracting the attention of almost everyone who comes near.

"Ethnic Man" is a ceramic statue about 9 1/2 feet tall, dominating the promenade near Anton's Restaurant near the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 13th Street NW. Its full name is "Untitled {Ethnic Man}," and it is part of a temporary exhibition put on by the International Sculpture Center (ISC) this summer.

What the ISC has done for one season is something that developers have been doing on a more permanent basis in recent years: using sculpture and outdoor art to enhance new buildings in the Washington area.

In a capital city long known for its statues and monuments, the recent building boom has brought with it more and varied public artwork. Statuary dots the landscape along the Dulles Airport access road. There are 40 pieces of outdoor art within a four-block radius of the Bethesda Metro stop. And a public gallery space in the Ellipse, an office and retail project, is a recent addition in Arlington.

"In the last decade there has been more interest in making a building more prestigious by the use of outdoor sculpture," said James M. Goode, author of the 1974 book "Outdoor Sculpture of Washington, D.C."

Not that the interest ever really died out. Builders Joey Kaempfer, Donald Brown and the Cafritz family in the 1960s and 1970s commissioned sculpture for the grounds of their buildings.

But a number of factors have made outdoor art more popular with developers. In a slumping commercial real estate market, developers and planners say, art is a selling tool rather than just an expendable frill. Local governments also are either requiring or encouraging it. And an artistic trend toward works that people can interact with is spurring public art, planners say.

"Art testifies to the uniqueness of a building, and it attracts people to the building," said Ray Olsen, director of the Cafritz Foundation, which is associated with the Cafritz Co. A landscaping renovation at the Cafritz Co.'s Universal North building on Connecticut Avenue will make sculpture there more prevalent.

Laurence Millspaugh, vice president for leasing for the Buchanan Cos., owner of the Ellipse, said the gallery has reinforced the image the firm has tried to project when marketing space in the Ellipse. Tenants like it too, he said.

Office tenants don't choose buildings for their outdoor art, said Ronald Lee Fleming, an urban design and arts consultant, but developers have told him that buildings with art and sculpture fetch higher rents than those without.

"One builder in Beverly Hills said he could earn $1 to $3 per {square} foot {more} when his buildings had art," said Fleming, who is handling the outdoor art and sculpture for Meridian, a proposed 121-acre community near Central Avenue in Prince George's County.

"I tend to think that the smart builders are going to realize they are in a competitive market, and with those amenities they are going to be in better marketing position," said Karen Kumm of the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

"When you have a value-laden amenity, the client is buying more for his dollar," said John Knott, president of Phillips & Knott Community Developers Inc., which is including public art in the 5 million square feet of office, residential and retail space for the Meridian project.

Public art also is becoming more prevalent in the suburbs, where planners say they are trying to use it to address quality-of-life concerns voiced by residents distressed by the fast pace of development.

"Most of what's been going on has been going on in the suburbs because of the amount of land that is available there," said David Furchgott, director of the International Sculpture Center.

In Prince George's and Montgomery counties, a small percentage of the construction budget for county government buildings must be spent on public art, although fiscal restraints have reduced Montgomery's percentage from 1 percent to 0.25 percent. And in Fairfax County, officials are developing guidelines for the county to borrow art for public display. In the Bethesda corridor, outdoor art is one of the public amenities developers can offer in exchange for exceptions from zoning law restrictions on building size.

While planners seek to encourage outdoor art, artists are helping their own cause by inviting the public to interact with their works, rather than just inviting contemplation or admiration. For instance, children might enjoy crawling on sculpture, or part of a sculpture might make a good place to sit at lunchtime.

"We need those quiet places to wander off to and just think," said Rita Bartolo, visual arts program supervisor of the the Arlington County Office of Cultural Affairs.

Artists also are thinking more about where their work will stand as they create it. To a developer, this can enhance a project's identify. One often-cited example is the courtyard of the Hampden Square condominium in Bethesda. There, two sculptors developed their works knowing that a thematically related piece would be nearby.

Raymond Kaskey, a finalist in the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial design competition, produced a relief of the face of Nautilus, ancient Greek god of the sea, for the courtyard and coordinated it with nautical elements on columns around the courtyard. Tom Stubensky of Baltimore produced a large wave sculpture as a second point of interest.

"Perhaps there is more of a commitment to understanding the meaning of the location rather than representing truth or beauty," said arts consultant Ronald Lee Fleming.