Outside the Lines installation at the High Museum in Atlanta
Installation view of “Outside the Lines.” Photo Credit: Jonathan Hillyer. Courtesy of the High Museum of Art.

Bryony Roberts’s Outside the Lines Makes Space for Everybody

A new interactive outdoor installation at the High Museum in Atlanta presents a more inclusive example of public space.

In downtown Atlanta, a new installation casts a shifting spectrum of sunset hues against the cool grey concrete of the High Museum’s Carroll Slater Sifly Piazza. Designed by Bryony Roberts Studio, the vibrant and immersive experience, Outside the Lines, offers a broader interpretation of “the public” than most public spaces offer. On view now through November 28, 2021, the interactive installation engages multiple senses while responding to the specific sensitivities of those with physical, developmental, and/or intellectual disabilities.

The New York–based design and research practice approaches design as a social practice, often working with local groups to conceive inclusive public environments informed by cultural histories and urban conditions. The concept for Outside the Lines emerged through conversations with a range of disability advocate groups across Atlanta with the goal of creating a community-driven public space—one which takes into account a full spectrum of humanity.

Outside the Lines offers a broader interpretation of “the public” than most public spaces offer.

Aerial view of an orange and white installation in a concrete plaza outside of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta with people walking by.

 Installation view of “Outside the Lines.” Photo Credit: Jonathan Hillyer. Courtesy of the High Museum of Art

From afar, Outside the Lines is vaguely reminiscent of Christo and Jean-Claude’s 2005 The Gates in Central Park, but upon closer examination reveals minute attention to textural detail: Arranged in a winding maze, colored fabric strips dangle at varying heights, shrouding pockets of netting stretched across the steel frame. The webbed netting, which doubles as hammock seating, also rises and falls in height. “We revised the materials list over the course of six months based on conversations with advocates,” Roberts says. “We’d originally planned to use metal mesh to create a sound element but shifted to something soft because people with Autism said metal sounds were too harsh. And we learned that the metal could potentially get caught in wheelchairs.”

People interacting with an interactive orange and white installation in a concrete plaza outside of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia.

 Installation view of “Outside the Lines.” Photo Credit: Jonathan Hillyer. Courtesy of the High Museum of Art. 

Now made from polypropylene webbing, the strips create only a very light rustling in the wind and are arranged in a custom-spray-painted color gradient. “I wanted there to be a range of color, so that some parts offer lower stimulation and are more calming, while other parts offer higher stimulation for a brighter, more social atmosphere,” says Roberts. At the outer edges, the muted palette of yellow and white forms a “quiet zone” leading inward to the richer reds and oranges of the central “social zone,” where there’s more opportunity for visitors to interact.

The installation’s seating options are also texturally diverse. Softened at the edges for safety, individual cutouts mirror the larger triangular and circular shapes that make up the maze-like whole, arranged in a grid pattern that changes across the installation. These tactile details were inspired by conversations with advocates from Atlanta’s Center for the Visually Impaired. Roberts notes, “We talked about navigation through touch. I wanted to create something rich and varied enough in texture to hold kids’ attention.”

Kids interacting with orange ribbons suspended from Byrony Robert's Outside the Lines installation at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia.

 Installation view of “Outside the Lines.” Photo Credit: Jonathan Hillyer. Courtesy of the High Museum of Art

According to Monica Obniski, the High’s curator of decorative arts and design,“a city’s public space is enormously important and should be accessible to all segments of the population, not just to a certain patron class or privileged few.” She has two firm criteria for installations in the Piazza: They must be interactive in some way, and they must appeal to all ages. Outside the Lines goes far beyond. “It makes room for multiple groups to connect and discover, appealing to those with physical and developmental differences without segregating them from the rest of society,” says Obniski, “and without separating them from each other. It’s beautiful.”

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