Dec 21, 2008

Negotiating border conditions- a case for the US/Mexico Border fence

The border between two nations is manifested not just as a line of control, but a condition. It symbolizes a joint between the two nations rather than a divide; multi-cultural, diverse, and fragmented. This joint can be seen through everyday activities that initiates a dialogue between the two nations. Forming what may seem to be a third space/ third nation. (LEFT: image of the Israeli-Palestinian wall)

The wall/ fence sites itself in the center of this third space. It is here that these everyday activities, seek their way through ‘holes’ in these walls. Some created, others existing. Some illegitimate, others legitimate. The fence is probed and worked upon by various actors as an attempt to maintain this joint. This gives rise to local tactics that are imagined as global threats. As the walls grow taller, stronger, and more intense; nations divide, cities get fragmented and homes are rearranged. The reconfiguration and resettlement of the existing, in order to insert an alien screen/barrier, become a part of the hybrid. A new landscape is seen to emerge as a result of these new configurations.

The border fence reinstates ones notion of security (against the aliens), barricades illegalities (of exchange not allowed in the country) and controls immigration pressures. At the fence it is seen as a workspace for an illegal immigrant excavating his/her way through the night; as the meeting place for several families separated along this divide; as a space for trade for a drug peddler; as a screen to climb on, or a screen to play across…

My project began as an investigation and archive of everyday activities that form impressions along the border fence, thickening this line as a space for negotiations.

The new landscape

Site:El Paso/ Cuidad Juarez

Base map after the operatives were applied. Proposed landscape

This part of the project was developed as a 3-Dimensional, conceptual map that was built on a set of Boolean operations applied to the conceived space of the border. The stretch across the check points Paso Del Norte Port of Entry to the Stanton Street Bridge at the Mexico customs department that form legal entry terminals from the U.S. into Mexico was the site of examination.

Landforms that existed on either side were pulled across as bridges that joint the two sides as a series of stitches, twisting the existing morphology, creating a new landscape. This new landscape became the terrain for interventions.

Holes in the Wall

The U.S. Mexico border fence spans across the landscape, a high eighteen foot tall wall that is built on the U.S. side, barricading all communication with the aliens. Just as the wall cuts across land belonging to native families, school properties as well as the University of Texas, Brownsville, it breaks abruptly to allow for a golf course, an international recreation center or merely a property belonging to an influential billionaire. This brings into question, strategies applied by the homeland security in orienting pieces of fence along selected regions of the border. Legal mechanisms to puncture these barricades are legitimized by the introduction of programmed spaces. Hence my project introduces/ replaces segments of the fence with nodes that perform as public interfaces within a barren landscape.

Programming Exchanges along the border

Public participatory programs are inserted as plug-ins within an existing border condition as an attempt to instigate a dialogue or an ‘exchange’ of sorts that questions notions of exclusion/ inclusion.

“In the last few decades, the proliferation of fortified enclaves has created a new model of spatial segregation and transformed the quality of public life in many cities around the world. Fortified enclaves are privatized, enclosed and monitored spaces for residence, consumption, leisure and work. The fear of violence is one of their main justifications. They appeal to those who are abandoning the traditional public sphere of the streets to the poor, “the marginal,” and the homeless. In cities fragmented by fortified enclaves, it is difficult to maintain the principles of openness and free circulation that have been among the most significant organizing values of modern cities. As a consequence, the character of public space and of citizens’ participation in public life changes.” Teresa Caldera- Fortified enclaves- the new urban segregation

Everyday activities of local interactions are manifested as spaces for public interactions. The border wall thickens to allow for ones body to engage in a dialogue with the other. All forms of communication and exchange are experienced through the perforations or narrow crevices of a fence. These openings being designed to allow for a particular kind of exchange, legitimize its existence.

Exchange of information

Library............................. Newspaper stand

Exchange of values

The Confession room......................................The Church

Other exchange nodes

Scenario 1

A public landscape is proposed to span across the border bridging the two countries. The existing fence is maneuvered across the park along the new landscape that suggests a possible notch of two landforms. The fence is interrupted by proposed plug-ins that attempt to instigate a dialogue on the new border condition.

Through this scenario a post border projection is drawn where the border plug-ins are retained as monuments that mark a certain period in history.

...schematic diagram indicating the extent of the proposed landscape

Scenario 2

The wall plug-ins are imagined as a system of repetitive elements that can replace a volume of 480 square feet along the border condition.

These elements are programmed to perform a certain form of exchange that formally brings together people of diverse origin in order to engage in a dialogue on the border.

Through this scenario the border plug-ins are envisioned as nodes that perform as social spaces that become integral for the strengthening and building of a healthy society.

Concluding notes

The cities along the border, seem to be in an extremely unstable condition. The baggage of a socio-political threat along the periphery is killing everyday life in these urban and rural settlements.The two projected scenarios, propose the injection of civic/ public infrastructure as spaces for conversation, into this barren landscape of exclusion. These nodes of exchange are conceived as social spaces that can strengthen local ties, creating an archive of experiences and building healthier societies.

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