Borderwall as Architecture began in 2009 as a graduate level architectural design studio taught at the University of California Berkeley led by Professor Ronald Rael, and later as a series of speculations by his creative practice, Rael San Fratello, who submitted a finalist entry in WPA 2.0, an open design competition seeking innovative, implementable proposals that place infrastructure at the heart of rebuilding our cities during this next era of metropolitan recovery. The competition, organized by UCLA’s cityLAB, was inspired by the Depression-era Works Projects Administration and the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Given the $150 billion dedicated to infrastructure–the largest investment in public works in the United States since the 1950s–designers were asked to envision a new legacy of publicly-supported infrastructure, projects that explore the value of infrastructure not only as an engineering endeavor but as a robust design opportunity to strengthen communities and revitalize cities. Nearly two hundred teams from 13 countries and 25 US states entered the professional competition. The six final proposals represent some of today’s most progressive plans for transforming existing urban infrastructure with an emphasis on better public spaces, more conscientious energy and water use, and turning detriments into resources.
Since then, the work has expanded from research conducted at the University of California Berkeley and at Rael San Fratello, and refined to be presented as a manifesto against the borderwall that divides the U.S. from Mexico through a series of essays and counter proposals that intend to address the problems associated with the estimated $49 billion project. These counter proposals are presented as recuerdos, the spanish word for souvenirs, collected on a conceptional journey documenting a series of scenarios, real and imagined, along the U.S.-Mexico Border Wall.
This a story that needed to be told, for it is an account of the largest construction project in 21st century Usonia. Almost exactly the distance of the Grand Tour, the migratory route for upper-class European men that went from London to Rome, this journey stretches along the southern border for 1,931 miles. This Nuevo Grand Tour traces the consequences of a security infrastructure that stands both conceptually and physically perpendicular to human migration. Whereas the artifacts Grand Tourists would return with (art, books, pictures, sculpture) became symbols of wealth and freedom, the border wall is a preventative measure against Grand Tourists from the south. On this journey, the recuerdos gathered are tragic, sublime and absurd, occasionally hyperbolized, but in all cases based on real experiences and events existing in the liminal space that defines the southern boundary of The Divided States of North America.