High Museum’s ‘Mi Casa, Your Casa’ transforms Midtown space

Contemporary designers hope installation encourages interaction

As you approach the Carroll Slater Sifly Piazza at the Woodruff Arts Center, you find several open-faced frames in a familiar shape: a house. The installation is the High Museum’s new exhibition called, Mi Casa, Your Casa. The brainchild of contemporary Mexican designers Héctor Esrawe and Ignacio Cadena, the work aims to attract visitors to the Sifly Piazza, encourage engagement with people, and enhance a sense of community as guests lounge in the hammocks within the open-air structures.

“What we found out during the process is that the most recognizable, welcoming shape is a house,” Esrawe says. “For every audience, it doesn’t matter if it’s a young kid or an adult, it makes you feel like you belong and remains warm and welcoming.”

After being shipped flat from Mexico, the 36, bright-red houses were built and placed on a large grid on the Sifly Piazza with a few also surrounding the museum. The pattern of the houses will change several times as the installation continues to play host to a series of planned events, including a WonderRoot artist installation and Alliance Theatre performances.

“This all started the first time we came to Atlanta when we saw people coming out of the MARTA train station and going around the campus and not through the campus,” Cadena says. “We wanted to create something that would break that barrier and invite people in. So, then comes the house, then this flea market spirit, and it really becomes a campus where people can do things. ... It’s interaction between human beings and not interaction with technology.”

The High has already commissioned Esrawe and Cadena to design a second installation for Sifly Piazza to be unveiled in summer of 2015. According to the High, the next concept “will be inspired by the public’s interaction with this year’s project.”

Despite big plans for the future, Esrawe and Cadena’s vision was already a hit before it went officially public. In the days leading up to the opening of Mi Casa, Your Casa droves of Atlanta residents had already found themselves swinging in the red hammocks, enjoying the weather, and even having business meetings. “For us, it was a surprise, and many people started using it in ways that we hadn’t thought about,” Esrawe says of the installation’s early success. “We don’t know where it’s going to lead, but I think it’s heading in the right direction. Visitors see a living spot and the joy around — they want to feel it, they want to experience it.”