Teeter-Totter Wall

Rael San Fratello turns the U.S.–Mexico border into a joyous seesaw playground

Waling towards the border wall, seesaw in hand. (Ronald Rael/Image via UC Press Blog)

Ronald Rael, the architecture chair at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design, and Virginia San Fratello, associate professor of architecture at San José State University, have just installed a row of Pepto-pink seesaws that use the U.S.-Mexico border wall as a fulcrum to allow people on both sides to play across the divide.

Here, in Mexico’s Ciudad Juárez and New Mexico’s Sunland Park, the wall’s brown steel slats are spaced wide enough that kids (and some adults) in one country can see the teeter-totters in the other.

“There are good relations between the people of Mexico and the United States, and using the seesaw shows that we are equal and we can play together and enjoy ourselves,” Rael told Ruptly.

In videos circulating on social media, the teeter-totters on both sides of the border wall do indeed look like they are having a blast:

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One of the most incredible experiences of my and @vasfsf’s career bringing to life the conceptual drawings of the Teetertotter Wall from 2009 in an event filled with joy, excitement, and togetherness at the borderwall. The wall became a literal fulcrum for U.S. – Mexico relations and children and adults were connected in meaningful ways on both sides with the recognition that the actions that take place on one side have a direct consequence on the other side. Amazing thanks to everyone who made this event possible like Omar Rios @colectivo.chopeke for collaborating with us, the guys at Taller Herrería in #CiudadJuarez for their fine craftsmanship, @anateresafernandez for encouragement and support, and everyone who showed up on both sides including the beautiful families from Colonia Anapra, and @kerrydoyle2010, @kateggreen , @ersela_kripa , @stphn_mllr , @wakawaffles, Chris Gauthier and many others (you know who you are). #raelsanfratello #borderwallasarchitecture

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Joy.

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Although the play equipment is pure fun, the project is also a comment on the reciprocal relationships between countries’ border policies and their impact on those who live and work in the borderlands. That thinking extends to the nuts and bolts of the project, too: While the architects’ California firm Rael San Fratello executed the design, Ciudad Juárez’s Taller Herrería custom-fabricated the seesaws for the installation.

San Fratello and Rael’s idea for the Teeter-Totter Wall is a decade in the making, though most first learned about it from their 2017 book, Borderwall as Architecture: A Manifesto for the US-Mexico Boundary

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