Nov 29, 2008

Pneu Border Proposal

“The true issue involves harnessing the political willpower to involve an educated community in the determination of its future and its economy.” ~ Marras, Amerigo. Hybrids, Fusions, and Architecture of the In-Between.

This proposal is a pneumatic border wall that primarily resides along the political border in the lower rio bravo/grande valley. The pneumatic wall creates a series of volumes which float along the rio, which can be programmed by the adjacent communities in a variety of ways which could benefit from either close bi-national contact or adjacency, or from being in an international zone or interstitial space. The wall itself is primarily two parallel tube sections which vary in section based upon programmatic needs or river morphology, with virtual-wall infrastructure in between which could potentially identify migrants as they cross the political border, for various purposes. The project aspires to encourage bi-national development, and cultivate cross-cultural contact and coordination in border towns and cities along and aside the rio grande/bravo, which most have largely turned their backs to. I am providing a system, a skeleton or carapice, to yes the Department of Homeland Security, but also to the communities in border regions along the river.

This investigation began with an interest in researching migrant death along the border, which identified two primary sites where this occurs- death by drowning along the rio grande/bravo, and hyperthermia in the frontier conditions of arizona and new mexico - too much water, or too little. Death however was just a by-product of a myriad of larger issues, which can be considered human ecology- the social, political, economic, and cultural environments in addition to a more environmental ecology. Aspiring to address some of these larger issues in addition to death along the border I began by looking at the river, as it forms nearly 65% of the nearly 2000 mile border, and the avulsions over time that have made what could be considered a "living border" - defining areas which have been both united states and mexico for some period of time, and what could be considered a general sort-of international riparian zone.

the project is anchored and accessed by a series of bridges which are built as the communities or governments desire to occupy the provided international spaces on the river [however discontinuous - divided by security gates and the virtual wall along the political border], and pneumatic pressure in conjunction with a to-be-designed vertebrae controls the shape of the inflatable where the bridges cannot to follow the river. in addition to a rather static condition along the river, the existing riparian zones - historically disputed lands or otherwise discarded spaces - can be developed in a variety of earthworks and landscape projects which can be shared bi-nationally with the intentional and controlled shift of the security border from the political border- moving the pneu border in a sort-of mimicry of the river avulsions.

The intermittent bridges serve as access and a track system to pull the pneu border over land, defining new bi-national or shared cultural riparian zones. The border wall can illuminate to serve these spaces at night and become a surface for projection, and the additional earthwork and landscapes could become anything from in-ground theatres and sports-fields to a decent migrant potters field. Optimistically when the wall is taken down {or deflated}, what is left in concrete are bridges and public spaces along the rivers edge.

The wall itself will be a series of individual pneumatic chambers which i'm working on designing now. The pressure cavity will be within the wall system, a double skin system that operates to modulate surface area by "poofiness," which will morph the form based upon necessary length and shape dictated by the river morphology or shifting across the riparian zones. This renders the interior spaces neutral in pneumatic pressure, however what floor and wall systems will need to expand and contract as the length and shape of the border wall shift. Various opacity, thicknesses, gradations, and unit modulation will be explored in this tectonic pursuit, which i'm excited about getting to once i've got the larger shifts represented etc... I hope the section of these tubes can vary in a big way over the length of the borderwall, and various formal typologies could be created to address the programs housed within - {i.e. "nave" section, "aviary" section, "office" section etc.} Aperture and penetration, rigidification etc. will be heavily considered and explored in this tectonic pursuit.

“Felix Guattari suggests that the basic question assailing us today is “how to produce, tap, enrich, and permanently reinvent (our subjectivity) in order to make it compatible with the Universe of changing values.” In this sense, ecology embraces the complexity of our social ecology, the ecology of the artificial environment that we produce in our being and becoming. It encompasses all ecologies that are at once natural and manmade.”

~Amerigo Marras adds to Felix Guattari in Hybrids, Fusions, and Architecture of the In-Between.

Nov 24, 2008

Border Megalopolis

Urban settlements along the US and Mexico border are some of the fastest growing regions in each respective country. This project imagines an east west megalopolis, similar to those currently spread North/South along the coastal United States. By manipulating the space of the border through elongation and compression, various relationships become apparent. In collapsing the string of “sister cities” occurring along this divide, patterns of development and urban form are juxtaposed, highlighting differences and similarities and suggesting future routes of growth. The area between each respective sister city and the border becomes activated as a space of potential connectivity. By analyzing how each urban form addresses the border, either by pushing up against it, even using it as quotidian infrastructure, or by pulling back, creating an additional buffer between the two nations, various characteristics and typologies appear. In the case of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, and other similarly sized metrapoles, the two border populations have veritably collapsed, with the border practically dissolved by the daily bustle. In smaller cities such as Columbus, New Mexico and Puerto Palomas, Mexico, a gap of three miles exists between the two cities, yet because of the strong reciprocity and interdependence between the two communities, this space is evaporated; the border fence being a weak demarcation of differences not observed. In other instances, such as Sullivan City and Ciudad Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, the proximity of larger urban centers diverts the exchange that would otherwise exist between these two adjacent cities. Every sister city relationship has unique characteristics shaped by local history, industry, geography and location in the larger map, yet in each instance, the space that defines the border in between is charged and presents opportunities for analysis and methods for responsible and just exchange.

Nov 23, 2008

Nov 19, 2008

Transnational Spaces, Transborder Places

The Institute for the Study of Social Change (ISSC) UC Berkeley is pleased to co-sponsor the following event, which is free and open to the public:

Transnational Spaces, Transborder Places

A Mellon Colloquium
Friday, November 21, 2008, Noon-2pm
Geballe Room, Townsend Center, UC Berkeley
Reception to follow, Barrows Hall (5th floor, East lobby)

Recent scholarly attention to borders and borderlands represents an opening to social phenomena and frameworks of analysis historically neglected across the disciplines. This colloquium will bring together distinguished scholars of borderlands broadly conceived through ethnographic inquiry. Their collaboration represents a comparative approach, uncommon across disciplines, which considers geopolitical and cultural border/lands of the United States-Mexico and Mexico-Guatemala. Presenters will engage transnational and transborder perspectives to explore multiple meanings of border/lands, including:

the interplay of cultural constructs, such as race/ethnicity, gender, and class, with notions of geographic space; the impact of international migration on women's identities and roles; neoliberalism and marginality; and reshaping power through indigenous and mestiza women's collective organization and daily resistance within global processes. Panelists will present their work, compare their findings, and discuss with each other and audience members how communities, cultures, and people transcend borders and create borderlands.

Presentations and Presenters
"Netza-York and Other Transnational Urban Borderlands". Dr. Federico Besserer, Professor, Dept. of Anthropology, and Coordinator, Transnational Studies Program, School of Social Sciences and Humanities, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana Unidad Iztapalapa,
Mexico City, Mexico.

"Migration to the North in the Mam Zone: New Identities, New Border Crossings in the Southern Mexican Frontier". Dr. Rosalva Aida Hernández, Professor and Senior Researcher, Center for Research and Advanced Studies in Social Anthropology (CIESAS), Mexico City, Mexico.

"¡NAFTA No, Trabajos Sí!': Dislocation and Neoliberal Marginality at the U.S.-Mexico Border". Dr. Francisca James Hernández, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities, Dept. of Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley.

Moderator/Commentator: Dr. David Montejano, Professor, Dept. of Ethnic Studies, UC Berkeley.

The colloquium is an initiative of the Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Humanities and generous co-sponsors: Department of Ethnic Studies, Office of the Dean of Arts and Humanities, Chicana/o Studies Program, Department of Gender & Women's Studies and the Li Ka Shing Foundation, Department of Anthropology, Center for Latin American Studies, Institute for the Study of Social Change, Center for Latino Policy Research, Center for Race and Gender, Department of Geography, and the Beatrice Bain Research Group.

Nov 13, 2008

Redefining Walls

The UTEP Union Gallery proudly presents Redefining Walls, a group exhibition that sets out to interpret the contemporary relationship between the United States and Mexico. Redefining Walls will be on exhibit at the UTEP Union Gallery, 2nd floor Union East, from November 20, 2008 to January 5, 2009 with reception to take place on the evening of November 20, 2008 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Featuring El Paso artists, Kelly Eoff, Dave Ford, Jason Lucero, Zeque Penya, and Keith Allyn Spencer, Redefining Walls explores how each of the five artists interpret the U.S./Mexico relationship either by responding to the physical presence of walls or by portraying imagery that conveys human immigration and movement.

Curated by Exhibition Practices II students and led by Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts Director and Lecturer, Kate Bonansinga, Redefining Walls is a physical culmination of a year's learning. Fore more information regarding Redefining Walls, please contact Marina Monsisvais at or by phone at 915.747.5481.

Nov 11, 2008

water border-el paso/juarez

Third Nation: Michael Dear talks about a clear gradation from frontier spaces (of the Spaniards), to the delimitation of the boundary or “La Linea”, to the idea of a border spaces where US and Mexico seek control, later leading to the idea of fortification and enclave (“connecting the dots”). We must note that with this hyper-border and heightened security, segregation and hegemonic behavior, also comes the idea of integration and interpendence. We refer to Michael Dear’s “Third Nation”, a psycho-geography that overlooks the border in the everyday… As such, the border exists only as images, symbols and signs, Baudrillard’s symulacra. It’s polices and existence deterritorialized from time and space, defined from a disconnected place, solely based on foreign strategies, signs and symbols of fortification and enclave… a clear contrast to the de facto and everyday life at the border.
Clear aspects of interdependence transcending the border are evident in the politics of these spaces. As the fortifications grow so do bilateral and binational approaches. Economic integration and urban growth were key factors n the modernization of the borderlands and in the facilitation of bilateral agreements between the two countries, giving birth to a new era of collaboration. Chiefly among these were the 1892 International Border Commission (IBC) and the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC).

Troubled Waters: An arid landscape and climate as well as a rapid population and urbanization growth characterize the region of El Paso-Ciudad Juarez. NAFTA (1994) has accelerated the growth of manufacturing industries and has sparked a rise in export-oriented agriculture. As such, water shortage and the distribution of water have become serious issues shared by both cities. In the Ciudad Juarez- El Paso area, it has been predicted that groundwater will run dry in 20 years.
Shortage: With environmentalists and water experts becoming more vocal about the endangered aquifer, El Paso has cut its use back to 50 percent and is biding time by exploring other options. It has begun to develop water rights in rural counties to the east (Antelope Valley aquifers), has increased its dependence of surface water taken from Rio Grande, and began to plan strategies in order to bring water from more distant places and damns (Mesilla, NM). The latter would consequently increase the cost water by a substantial amount.
Juarez's position is more difficult; though the city uses half as much water per person as its neighbor, at 1.2 million Juarez has twice as many people. Juarez pumps aquifer water all year-round (Hueco Bolson) - even though researchers say at that rate fresh water will run out within as few as five years.
Inefficiency and degradation:
Municipal and irrigation systems canals are inefficient as they are open air and not lined with concrete resulting seepage and evaporation.
In addition, blackish Water from irrigation returns drains in the area and has degraded the water quality in the Shallow Rio Grande alluvium aquifer. “Below El Paso/Juarez, the flow in the El Paso/Juarez primarily consists of treated wastewater from EL Paso, untreated wastewater from Juarez and irrigation return flows”.

Proposal: An aqueduct. A network shared by both El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, physically demarcating space by directly addressing the essential pragmatics of the area. As such, the aqueduct replaces the border, paralleling to the Rio Grande, at points branching out into the cities and connecting to existing systems and infrastructures.
The proposal then deals with the collection and water (production, rainwater recycling and perhaps even grey-water treatment), its storage and its distribution.
Collection of water: The collection of water is done through various interconnected systems. The first one deals with the collection of rainwater through a specific roof membrane directly linked to the aqueduct and potentially other membranes that are placed in the cities’ already existing structures.
The second system focuses on the production of water. Seeing that deals with the cities cannot tap much more into the river, a system of production of water is then proposed. The roof membrane emulates the Namib beetle’s water condensation system through hydrophilic and hydrophobic skins and is based on the material research done by MIT with the regards to the potential of this water condensation and production technique.

Storage: Water is stored into bladders that are connected to the roof membrane and hang vertically from a created infrastructure. The bladders fill and empty becoming a temporal reading of the environment and ecology, while at the same time becoming a water screen that fluctuates, screening, blocking or opening between the two sides. As the bladders grow, their weight pulls on the roof membrane, creating more tension, sectional differences and thus allowing for an aerial reading of the ecology. In addition, specific physical interventions in the infrastructure and ground direct, sculpt and manipulate the shape of the bladders giving way to other readings and spatial potentials. The different relationships that arise allow for new uses and interpretations by humans, fauna and flora.

Distribution: Due to the inefficiency of the existing system, this proposal seeks to replace the irrigation canals and create a new, more efficient and healthier network that links the cities together, not only dealing with crop irrigation but having the potential to tap onto water purification systems, etc. for domestic use.
Border Water Infrastructure: As implied previously, the infrastructure that is established has a specific metering and rhythm that allows for aggregation, additions and clustering. It consists of a roof membrane supported in tension by vertical steel posts, which with the help of a cabling system also support the water bladders. Pipes weave in and out taking and distributing the water while at the same time helping sculpt the bladders. The sculpted ground as well as a secondary structural system that attaches to the primary system of posts and cables, enhances the manipulation of the water storage and as such create and allow for permanent and temporal spaces for circulation and other uses.

Site-specific locations: The first and perhaps main physical manifestation of this water border network will be located next to the river, below the Franklyn mountains. In addition to this being the location where the Rio Grande becomes the border between Mexico and the US, the proximity to the Franklyn mountains give it a higher elevation thus facilitating the transportation or movement of water (due to gravity) and giving a lower temperature to the area. Winds, running perpendicular the mountain chain, create temperature changes between the East and West side of El Paso, achieving up to a 20 degrees in difference. This temperature change is necessary in the condensation of moisture.
The network, in its majority mimicking the river, branches out into specific locations, thus disintegrating the border into the surrounding urban and rural landscapes.

Nov 8, 2008

The line, the cities and the wiki.

While constructing the maps of Juarez and El Paso I realized that there was a lacuna in the type of information I got about parts of Juarez I was studying. The information I got from the maps in the library was of a certain kind of datascape, broad and demographic, it didn’t allow me to read the site the way one experiences it while walking through its street. Also the data available did not reflect the social and programmatic relationships that existed between Juarez and El Paso. So I turned to the wiki map for more information about the sites and realized that the wikimap breaks away from a lot of problems that are inherent in the traditional mapping techniques.

A wikimap, like a Google map is a photograph of the earth, what sets it apart from a google map is the ability to edit this map. Anybody in the world who has access to the internet can define geographies on this map and attach ones personal stories on to the delineated boundaries. These stories are then open to comments and discussions with other people who visit This editibility greatly changes a lot of our notions about space.

Acknowledging the public and public knowledge:
Untill now, map making has been the prerogative of a cartographer. The medium of the wiki takes away these privileges from a select few geometers and hands them to the people. This gives rise to a rhizomatic space that helps break the hegemonic practice of map making.

The space of stories and stories about space:
De Certeau in his essay on spatial stories states that - ‘stories carry out the labour that transforms places into spaces and spaces into places…”. The wiki map is a constellation of stories posted by people. These stories not only help personalize space. They help layer our perception of spaces with perceptions of others giving us a chance to have multiple readings of the same place. Depending upon the kind of stories posted one begins to read it through the context of politics, advertisement, history, or simply beings to meet people who live there.

Deriving the wiki:
“ Derive” is a term for wandering s of a flanure. The intent of a derive was to read the city in newer ways. The wiki map has now become a medium of carrying out a derive. It allows one to navigate the city and meet its people sitting at home.

The notions of heterotopias:
Perceiving a city by walking through areas that it allows us to walk through has its short comings. parts of the city that are considered unclean or unsafe are often hidden away from the public view. Psychologically we begin to perceive these spaces as other spaces creating a certain bias in our minds about the place and the people living here. The wiki map unfolds these spaces and makes these heterotopias visible. Also begins to release information about these places into the public realm. This medium that helped me read Juarez and El Paso without a hegemonic bias.

wiki limits
However one of the biggest criticisms of the wiki is that it is a privilege of the few who have a computer -internet access , and understand how to edit the wiki. Hence it can never be a representative democratic set. Also it has the capability of framing rumors as nobody can check the validity of all the stories posted., hence a lot of information is to be taken with a pinch of salt. None the less it is, as of now, our only access to a democratic mapping system.