Architect, designer, and scholar Bryony Roberts calls the design “a social practice.” An advocate for the neurodiverse and the disabled, she’s responsible for the colorful installation named “Outside the Lines” in the outdoor piazza at the High Museum of Art, an immersive maze experience inclusive to visitors of all ability levels. Roberts joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom, along with the High’s curator of decorative arts and designs, Monica Obinski, to talk about the installation, what it means for the High and the diverse community it enriches.
“I’ve always been interested in the crossover between art and architecture,” said Roberts. “I love how, in the space between those fields, you can create environments that are really tactile, and immersive, and playful and fun.” The name “Outside the Lines” captures Roberts’ intention to make seemingly orderly structures active, unpredictable, and multi-sensory, calling them “lines that you experience with your body.” She continued, “It’s sort of outside our understanding of lines, as I was taught in architecture. It’s also about crossing the lines that are often drawn between the experiences of people with disabilities and without disabilities, in public space.”
Roberts’ focus on engaging people with disabilities emerged through her work with a feminist architecture collaborative known as WIP Collaborative, in New York City. “We’ve been doing research more and more on designing for neurodiversity,” said Roberts. “I wanted to expand that further and also think about the overlapping experiences of people who are visually impaired, and have mobility impairments, so that was really the purpose of this project.”
The High works with Atlanta’s Center for the Visually Impaired, participating in summer programming for its young members, and Roberts designed her installation with these groups in mind. “The project is kind of an explosion of textures, so the kids who come as part of [the program] will be able to explore the seating, and the hanging straps, and the netting, and just have a lot of fun and delight in that textural exploration,” Roberts said.
“We have noticed that children and adults will make use of space as they want to, and frankly for me, that’s the joy of these projects – is really understanding open-ended play and open-ended joy, as something that you really can’t prescribe,” said Obinski. The Piazza is an open space, and visitors can see and enjoy Roberts’ installation both during and outside regular museum hours. Though the High asks guests to refrain from dangerous use of the installation’s structures, of course, exploration is encouraged.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if what everyone designed, moving forward, was actually accessible to everyone?” posed Obinski. “I just think about a project like this, and how it really does serve the user, as opposed to serving the architect who created it. I think that’s one of the wonderful aspects of this project, but also of Bryony’s approach.”
Bryony Roberts’ outdoor installation “Outside the Lines” can be viewed through Nov. 28 at Carroll Slater Sifly Piazza outside the Woodruff Arts Center.
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