More mock-ups

A transparent border wall? Trump administration picks 4 firms for prototypes

Architecture News
A transparent border wall? Trump administration picks 4 firms for prototypes. Pictured here: The border wall dividing Sonora, Mexico from the United States. (Jonathan McIntosh via Flickr)
A transparent border wall? Trump administration picks 4 firms for prototypes. Pictured here: The border wall dividing Sonora, Mexico from the United States. (Jonathan McIntosh via Flickr)

Five days after Donald J. Trump took the presidential oath of office, he signed an executive order ordering the construction of a massive border wall, intended to be the cornerstone of his anti-immigration policy as promised throughout his 2016 presidential campaign.

Even before the order shifted from rhetoric to reality, architects have been responding to the question of whether they should participate in such a project and what such a massive piece of infrastructure could look like—including Mexican firm Estudio 3.14, which released renderings of a perplexingly aestheticized, Luis Barragán–inspired pink wall to much criticism in October.

Now, nearly eight months later, some scattered logistics are falling into place. Last Thursday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection awarded contracts for non-concrete prototype walls to four firms at a sum of about $3.6 million, adding to the four firms already selected to build concrete prototypes.

The firms are: Caddell Construction (of Montgomery, Alabama), KWR Construction (of Sierra Vista, Arizona), ELTA North America Inc. (of Annapolis Junction, Maryland), and W. G. Yates & Sons Construction Company (of Philadelphia, Mississippi). Caddell Construction and W. G. Yates were also picked in the previous round of contracts for concrete prototypes.

This latest development seems to correlate with Trump’s request earlier this summer that the wall be, of all things, transparent. His reasoning?

“As horrible as it sounds, when they throw the large sacks of drugs over, and if you have people on the other side of the wall, you don’t see them—they hit you on the head with 60 pounds of stuff? It’s over,” Trump told reporters on July 13. “As crazy as that sounds, you need transparency through that wall.”

Sanho Tree, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, responded: “Over a 2,000 mile border, I think you’d have a higher chance of getting hit by a meteorite than a bag of drugs.” The Washington Post even took the accusation seriously, spoke to some experts, and discovered that a casual toss like the one Trump described would likely require a catapult or other medieval military device.

While Trump the architect may lack a basic understanding of physical dynamics, Trump the politician seems to be unhesitant about carrying through on his promise to build the wall. We await to see how this transparency (or lack thereof) evolves.

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