Dec 31, 2009

Border Wall = Immigrant Museum?

Pier-Museum by Mario Cottone and Gregorio Indelicato

Italian architects Mario Cottone and Gregorio Indelicato propose an immigrant "Pier-Museum" which, pointing out to sea, will stand as a "horizontal monument" to all the immigrants who have arrived on these shores in search of a better future. The 100 meter long structure will point out to sea off Miami Beach and will house a museum in which the personal effects, souvenirs and photos belonging to the new generation of immigrants will be exhibited - those who came to the city of Miami from the 1950's to the 1980's in search of their own personal American Dream. To this end, this "Pier-Museum" is to function as an architectural landmark and serve as a space commemorating the new urban dynamic of the city,the global multiculturalism which defines the beginning of the 21st century. The design was the winning entry in a competition hosted by the University of Miami School of Architecture and Arquitectum.

Border Wall looking towards Tijuana, Mexico at Border Fields State Park

It is not clear if the Italian architects are aware of the western terminus of the border wall as it dives into the Pacific Ocean, a manifestation of, and symbolizing, the tensions that are directed at immigrants seeking a better future in the U.S. Is their proposal a political statement, irony or serendipity?

Dec 19, 2009

Border Wall as Infrastructure

Border Wall as Infrastructure, a design proposal for re-imagining the border wall between the United States and Mexico, was designed by Rael San Fratello Architects and selected as a finalist in the WPA 2.0 Competition. Two examples can be seen below and more information on the project can be found here.

The most untapped potential for solar development in the United States lies along the U.S./Mexico border. Solar farms, in turn, are highly secure installations. What if we were to reallocate some of the funds used simply to construct and maintain the border wall for the construction of energy infrastructure along the border? We would actually create scenarios in many instances that are more secure than the existing wall, and that simultaneously provide solar energy to the energy hungry cities of the southwest.

The border wall can and should be envisioned as a linear urban park through certain urban geographies. When supplemented with green spaces, connected to schools, libraries and other parks, there is no reason not to think of the wall as the organizing condition for an urban park, offering pedestrian and bicycle routes through the city. The linear park, in turn, has the potential to increase adjacent property values and the quality of life on both sides of the border while providing an important green corridor through the city.

Dec 18, 2009

Nov 24, 2009

Borderless Border: Removing the US-Mexico boundary fence by reclaiming the Rio Grande

Evidence of informal crossing along the border zone.

This is the border in the desert, west of El Paso running for 600 miles in the desert. In 1994, the U.S. Government planned a meter high steel fence along a 1.5 mile section of the US–Mexico border line, near Anapra. To tighten border security and stem the tide of new illegal immigrants. Since then, the number of crossings has ironically increased while the get-tough policy of the U.S. government has created more risk for immigrants: Mexican workers now have to walk further to the edge of the fence to cross, placing them at risk of deadly sun exposure, snake bites and shoot-outs with U.S. ranchers on remote borderlands. This project re-examines the 500-year paradoxical relationship of North America by drawing from the Ciudad Juàrez - El Paso “twin city” model along the border region. The strategy examines the effects of removing border infrastructure while forwarding a reclamation strategy for the Rio Grande and the Rio Bravo, a multi-stage watershed shared by the Province of Chihuahua and the State. Borderless Border: Removing the US-Mexico boundary fence by reclaiming the Rio Grande is a project by landscape architect Pierre Bélanger.

Border infrastructure along the Rio Grande and the industrial zones that serve North America.

Nov 13, 2009

Walley Ball

On the San Diego-Tijuana border, Brent Hoff and Josh Bearman initiate an impromptu volleyball game with two formidable opponents: Jerry and Eric. Playing over the dividing pylons between the two nations, the Americans ponder the implications of their game on U.S. Customs law.

Sep 9, 2009

Border Wall as Infrastructure

cityLAB, an urban think-tank at UCLA’s Department of Architecture and Urban Design, has announced the six finalists of its WPA 2.0 competition. The competition, which stands for working public architecture, invited designers of all stripes to submit proposals for rebuilding our cities’ infrastructure as a sort of throwback to the Great Depression-era WPA. Juried by Stan Allen, Cecil Balmond, Elizabeth Diller, Walter Hood, Thom Mayne, and Marilyn Jordan Taylor, the top-six picks run the gamut from heading off an impending water crisis to creating a softer, gentler version of our infrastructure.

Border Wall as Infrastructure, submitted by Rael San Fratello Architects, investigates unplumbed potentials for the Mexico-U.S. border fence. "There exists far more potential in a construction project that is estimated to cost up to $1,325.75 per linear foot." Recognizing the high cost, limited effectiveness and unintended natural consequences of the new, multi-layered US/Mexico border wall (disruption of animal habitats, diversion of water runoff that has caused new flooding in nearby towns), this proposal names 30 alternatives (covering nearly the whole of the Mexican alphabet, literally from Aqueduct wall to Zen wall) that might better combat the energy crisis, risk of death from dehydration, disruption of animal habitat, loss of vegetation, negative labor relations, missing creative vision and lack of cross-cultural appreciation likely in the government sponsored version. Read more at WPA 2.0 | Architects Newspaper | Curbed | World Landscape Architect

Sep 3, 2009

Franklin Delano Roosevelt on Border Walls

"What I seek to convey is the historic truth that the United States as a nation has at all times maintained opposition --clear, definite opposition-- to any attempt to lock us in behind an ancient Chinese wall while the procession of civilization went past. Today, thinking of our children and of their children, we oppose enforced isolation for ourselves or for any other part of the Americas."
FDR, speech on "The Four Freedoms," Jan 6, 1941

Selling The Border Wall

They have heard of people tunneling under it, scaling it and, on the Mexican side, defacing it. But it is not often, law enforcement authorities say, that people try to rip apart the border fence to sell it. That appears to be the motive that led to the arrest this week in Tijuana, Mexico, of six people who, the authorities there say, were caught shearing off chunks of the metal plate fence to sell as scrap.

Aug 6, 2009

Saving the Sabal Palm

Once found across much of the lower Gulf Coast, sabal palm forests have all but vanished under the plow. While some scattered trees can be found on private lands in the region, the significant remaining stands of these towering trees are located at Lennox Foundation Southmost Preserve, the Sabal Palm Audubon Center and the Lower Rio Grand Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
All three of those conservation areas lie in the path of the border fence

Palms B-Roll Preview from on Vimeo.

In order to save sabal palms that would otherwise be leveled by construction of the fence, the Conservancy is partnering with the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and Audubon Texas in coordination with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to transplant palms to safe ground, one tree at a time.

Aug 5, 2009

Aug 4, 2009

Border wall successfully halting illegal immigration (of wildlife)

From the article: Border wall successfully halting illegal immigration (of wildlife) By Eoin O'Carroll in the Christian Science Monitor:

Those who wish to secure America’s borders from ocelots, pronghorn antelopes, gray wolves, and bighorn sheep scored a victory earlier this month, as an amendment to a Homeland Security bill passed by the House mandates an additional 369 miles of fence that will prevent these animals from crossing the border.

The border wall, which was constructed after waiving three dozen federal environmental laws, is expected to be successful in reducing populations of these and other species, most of whom do not speak English or pay taxes. The science news site PhysOrg reports on a study for the peer-reviewed journal Conservation Biology, which found that Sonoran bighorn sheep populations north of the border rely on contact with those on the other side of the border to maintain genetic diversity.

A 2007 report in Salon found that habitat fragmentation was also reducing populations of ocelots – a rare species of wildcat that some argue could potentially steal jobs from Americans.

Indeed, the only large mammal whose migration is largely unaffected by the border wall are H. sapiens, whose opposable thumbs and developed neocortex enable them to simply use ladders ordig tunnels under the fence. Last year, the Federation of American Scientists reported that the US Border Patrol had discovered 93 cross-border tunnels since 1990.

What’s more, almost half of illegal human immigrants avoided the border wall altogether by entering the US on a legal visa – an option not available to members of other species.

Still, by some measures, the border wall can be considered a success. Since its construction, there have been no reports of pronghorn antelopes enrolling in public schools, and the number of ocelots working in service industries appears to have been sharply reduced.

Jul 23, 2009

New US and Mexican Border Fence and Map 2009

American Patrol, an independent pro-border fence website, has released a new online map of the Southwest border that shows the where and what type of fencing is installed between San Diego, California and Brownsville, Texas. Viewers can open a map of Border Patrol sectors and then click on a given sector to see where fencing and vehicle barriers have been installed.

Jun 22, 2009

Border Yoga

A few dozen yoga aficionados rolled out their mats Sunday on both sides of the wall between Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego. The international group stretched and meditated together before exchanging hugs through the fence bars as the border fence yoga stretched the boundaries.

Jun 12, 2009

Border Locations

H.R. 6061, Border Fence Act Fence Locations on Google Maps.

Virtual Fence: How it Works

In a test area near Sasabe, Arizona, a 28-mile section of the virtual border fence is set to go live. Developed by Boeing as part of a $70 million contract, the test fence, dubbed Project 28, will use a combination of physical fencing and "invisible technology" So, how does it work?

Jun 6, 2009

Urbanism of Transgression

One post-9/11 urban intervention that has received little attention in architectural circles is the massive transformation of the San Ysidro border checkpoint, currently in its early planning stages and for which an architect has already been chosen. Homeland Security is pouring billions of dollars into the San Diego/Tijuana border region to reinforce its infrastructure of surveillance, continuing to further divide the U.S. from its Mexican neighbor.
Read more in the essay SD/TJ BORDER WALL: URBANISM OF TRANSGRESSION by Teddy Cruz.

Border Wall Films

The Wall

The 800 Mile Wall

The Border Wall

Mar 2, 2009

Competition Winning Border Crossing Oasis, Mexico-USA

Thought you all may want to see what some others have suggested...

Competition Winning Border Crossing Oasis, Mexico-USA
Posted: Friday, February 27, 2009

With this proposal for a border crossing for pedestrians between Mexico and the United States, Belgian firm OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen, in collaboration with Wonne Ickx, won the first prize in an international design competition back in 2005. Not necessarily the latest competition news, but the architectural and political issue of construction projects along the US-Mexican border remains highly explosive and, yet, unresolved.


This is how the architects describe the project:

“An oblong volume provides a border crossing for pedestrians between Mexico and the US, and interrupts the endless demarcated boundary. A nine-meter high wall defines a no-man’s-land between the two countries. Within the white walls a grid of palm trees imposes order on a large, shaded garden. Pavilions for passport control and administration are spread around here and there, becoming part of the garden. The oasis is a point of reference in the vast Tex-Mex landscape, hidden within the open landscape by its walls. In all its simplicity it raises questions about the desire for the promised land.”


OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen will also have their first solo exhibition coming up in deSingel International Arts Campus in Antwerp, Belgium. The exhibition is called 7 Rooms and will feature 17 key projects, and a catalog. The exhibition opens on March 5.


Images: OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen

Feb 20, 2009

Border Plan Will Address Harm Done at Fence Site

Published: January 16, 2009


LOS ANGELES — The federal government has pledged millions of dollars to make up for the environmental damage from building hundreds of miles of fences along the Mexican border through wilderness and protected lands.

Dean Knuth/Arizona Daily Star

A photograph showing the nearly completed fence along the Mexican border taken in November 2007 near Sasabe, Ariz. Advocacy groups have complained about environmental damage.

But environmental groups who have fought the fence called it too little, too late.

In an announcement on Thursday, federal officials said the new spending was intended to resolve any conflict in the missions of the Departments of Homeland Security and Interior. The former is building nearly 670 miles of fences and other security equipment along the border, while the latter is charged with protecting and maintaining several hundred miles of public lands along the fence.

The officials said the Homeland Security Department would devote up to $50 million in the next year for “reasonable mitigation measures” to compensate for the damage or loss of animal and plant habitat and cultural areas like American Indian religious sites.

That compensation could include modifying the fence to curb flooding and to accommodate threatened and endangered species or restoring their habitats, but officials have not worked out those details and it will vary depending on the area.

The Interior Department will draft a list of priorities by June.

The agreement between the two departments has been in the works since April, when the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, to the dismay of environmentalists and some scientists in the Interior Department, used his Congressionally authorized power to waive environmental laws to speed access to broad swaths of land.

At the time, in the face of an outcry from critics, Mr. Chertoff said the fence construction would proceed but with sensitivity to the environment and in coordination with the Interior Department.

Homeland security officials said the department had spent about $40 million in the past two years to address environmental problems associated with the border security project.

The fence construction and related roads and equipment for detecting illegal border crossers directly affect 200 to 300 miles of Interior Department land along the fence route and some of the most environmentally sensitive sites in the region.

With the promise of new spending coming just days before President-elect Barack Obama takes office on Tuesday, it was unclear on Friday to what extent the agreement would stick.

Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona, a Democrat whom Mr. Obama has chosen to head the Homeland Security Department, has not publicly taken a position on Mr. Chertoff’s use of the waivers, a spokeswoman said.

But Ms. Napolitano has expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of the fence. On Thursday, she told a Senate committee considering her nomination that she planned a broad and thorough review of the department’s policies.

Nick Shapiro, a spokesman for the Obama transition office, said, “President-elect Obama will review all 11th-hour regulations and will address them once he is president.”

Lloyd Easterling, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, the agency within the Homeland Security Department that will decide how to spend the $50 million, said transition officials were consulted on the agreement and took no position. But Mr. Easterling expressed optimism that it would go forward.

“Good environmental stewardship,” he said, “is transcendental of administrations.”

Environmental groups who challenged the fence construction, including an effort to have the Supreme Court block it, said dozens of species had suffered lost or damaged habitat. Among them, they say, are jaguars, ocelots, deer, javelinas and owls.

The environmental groups said that although steps to minimize the environmental harm of the fence were welcome, they would press the new administration to halt further fence building and reassess what had been done.

“We heard in Janet Napolitano’s remarks this week interest in evaluating this project, and that certainly is what the Sierra Club is asking for,” said Oliver Bernstein, a spokesman for that group in Texas. “This $50 million is too little, too late, but it is recognition that the border wall project is having tremendous environmental consequences.”

A version of this article appeared in print on January 17, 2009, on page A15 of the New York edition.

Feb 8, 2009

Illegal Border Crossing Architecture: Faux Fences & Ramps

Where the 600 miles of fencing are already up, along the borders of California, Arizona and New Mexico, “smugglers and illegal immigrants continue to breach the fencing that is up, forcing Border Patrol agents and contractors to return again and again for repairs,” the Wall Street Journal noted Wednesday. “The smugglers build ramps to drive over fencing, dig tunnels under it, or use blow torches to slice through. They cut down metal posts used as vehicle barriers and replace them with dummy posts, made from cardboard.”
Cardboard or Concrete?

When U.S. authorities raised a tall curtain of steel through this tiny Arizona border town to prevent people crossing illegally from Mexico, the smugglers on the south side were ready. Using blowtorches and welding gear they burned a rectangular gate in the barrier large enough to drive a truck through, then they sealed it with a padlock to use it at their leisure, border police say.

A modified pickup truck with extendable ramps stands idle a few yards to the south of the fence marking the U.S. and Mexico border near Campo, CA.

Sturdy steel posts have been sunk in the ground in many areas to stop vehicles crossing north, although drug traffickers have responded by building elaborate vehicle ramps to drive cars over the top, border police say. “It's like the old show 'The Dukes of Hazzard,' cars flying through the air,” said James Jacques, a supervisory Border Patrol in San Diego, Calif. Illegal border crossers are also routinely beating pedestrian barriers using ladders tailor-made in clandestine Mexican workshops, border police say, while others have used screwdrivers to try to clamber over new 14-foot tall, steel-mesh barriers designed to deny handholds.

Border Patrol agents seized hundreds of pounds of marijuana valued at almost three-quarters of a million dollars from a truck that was driven over the border on metal ramps.

Jan 23, 2009

Ancestral Graves Desecrated for Border Wall

Homeland Security destroyed 69 graves of Tohono O'odham ancestors in one location alone while constructing the US/Mexico border wall south of Tucson, in violation of all federal laws created to protect American Indian remains. Homeland Security and US courts waived all federal laws to protect Native American graves and the environment and then allowed for border wall construction at San Pedro near Nogales. The graves were violated and the details were not made public. Although the archaeologist exposing the desecration only revealed it as a rare find, for O'odham, these are the graves of their ancestors which were destroyed. Archaeologist Maren Hopkins said the village is believed to have existed from around A.D. 700 to 1200.

Jan 3, 2009

border elasticity

The U.S.- Mexico border is penetrable along its length despite efforts to control passage through fencing. As people overcome and adapt to enforcements on the land, new processes of movement and settlement transform the position of the boundary. In cities such as Naco, Arizona and Naco, Sonora, the juxtaposition of dense, sporadic passage fro Mexico and fluid movement from the U.S. results in deformations of the borderline. The purpose of the border as a boundary becomes questionable as expanded conditions are revealed in a fluctuating zone comprised of varied rates of movement. The line becomes elastic - shifting in thickness - back and forth between boundary line and border space.

The fence proposal is a biological water treatment facility situated on the border 1-mile outside of the towns of Naco, Arizona and Naco, Sonora. The site formerly served as  the location for Fiesta Binacional, an annual volleyball game and social gathering straddling the boundary where the existing 13-foot high fence terminates. The treatment facility is an extension of this fence and provides needed clean water to households in both Nacos. In addition, it serves as a platform for residents north and south of the border to openly convene in a shared binational zone. The facility is accessible from both sides with the existing floodlights serving as the only form of security. 

Proposed sewage lines are housed along the present fence and enter the treatment facility below grade to flow into a collection of preliminary holding containers. A series of bioremediation tanks, integrated into the upper levels of the expanded structure, are constructedas ponds with various emergent plants, snails, and fish.The final remedial stages consist of passage through constructed wetlands abundant with plant life, fish, and other microorganisms. The remediation system is modeled after the Ashfield, MA Wastewater Treatment Plant and the Norfolk Holkham, UK Accel-o-Fac Treat-ment Facility.

Thought has been given to the future of the border wall and adjacent towns. The life of the treatment facility rests on the political position behind the physical fence and subsequent population increase or decrease of the two Nacos. If the towns are to grow, the structure is designed to expand along the border as a system of multiple units. The current proposal consists of two symmetrical units that provide for 350 households.

The possibility of population decline (negating or lessening the need for the facility) has required consideration of materials that may break down and/or disassemble for reuse elsewhere leaving behind the primary steel structureto act as a border marker or as a base for the developmentof a different structure. Left unbuilt, the remaining structural members would demarcate the frontier, however, rather than dividing the two sides, they would stitch the territories together with an open, porous, framework.