Posts tagged with "US-Mexico Border":

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AN talks to Eyal Weizman about tech in truth-telling ahead of Forensic Architecture’s first U.S. survey

Forensic Architecture has garnered a significant reputation within the field of architecture (they had a major showing at the most recent Chicago Architecture Biennial) and beyond for their work reconstructing violent events perpetrated by state actors and others using architectural tools and emerging technologies. The collective’s work has been displayed everywhere from the courthouse to major art exhibitions, including during this past year’s Whitney Biennial. The video One Building, One Bomb, co-produced with The New York Times, won an Emmy this past year, and in 2018 they were also nominated for the United Kingdom’s prestigious Turner Prize. This month, Forensic Architecture, which is based out of Goldsmiths, University of London, will have its first major U.S. survey; Forensic Architecture: True to Scale will open on February 20 at the Museum of Art and Design at Miami Dade College. Ahead of the Miami exhibition, AN spoke with Forensic Architecture founder Eyal Weizman to discuss the changes of the past decade, the power of technology, and the importance of forensics in a “post-truth” era. Drew Zeiba: Forensic architecture began a decade ago. How has the project changed and how have the tools you use evolved since then? Eyal Weizman: When we started around 2010, it was the beginning of the Arab Spring and the really heartbreaking civil war that came in its wake. Those particular sets of conflicts had a particular texture to them. They happened in an environment that had a lot of mobile phones and in the areas where there's internet connectivity, and where the government’s ability to shut down the internet was not always successful. We started being in an environment where increasingly you had more and more videos around incidents that we could map. It was also the early teens where at the time, in London great protest around tuition fees and then the big protest after the police killing of Mark Duggan in North London. This killing was during a period when police did not yet have dash cams. And ever since, we've seen the introduction of body cams and dash cams to police investigations. If you look today at the conflicts that are taking place, we have several thousand videos, hours long, broadcasting live as things are happening. The sheer media density requires us to use different technologies in order to bring accountability. We have recently developed machine vision and machine learning technologies that, working together with human researcher, can speed up the process of sieving through thousands and thousands and thousands of hours of content coming from confrontations with policing Hong Kong, for example. In relation to police violence, we have now concluded the investigation in Chicago [into the police killing of Harith Augustus] with full body cams available, several dash cams, a CCTV, etc. We are working in a much more media-saturated environment and need new tools like artificial intelligence to help us identify materials like our work on Warren Kanders that used machine learning. [Kanders is the ousted vice chairman of the board of the Whitney Museum, whose company Safariland sells tear gas used at the U.S.-Mexico border, in Gaza, and elsewhere, including in U.S. cities such as Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri.] We're creating virtual reality sites for witnesses to walk through the scene of the together with the psychologists and lawyer and protection, but can also recall events. And we are trying to be at cutting edge of technologies that would help social movement and civil society to invert the balance of epistemological power, against the monopoly of knowledge that states have over information in battlefields and in crime scenes. The abundance of images also has to do with the increasing presence of surveillance—including by CCTV cameras and police body cams, as you mention. How can architectural and technological tools invert the power relationship embedded in some of these commonplace image-making tools? Forensics have to be in the hands of the people. Forensics was developed as a state tools, as a form of state power, as a police tool. But when the police is the agency that dispenses violence and the agency that's investigating it, we have a problem. We absolutely need to be able to have independent groups holding police to account. And what we have is our creativity and we can effectively mobilize and make more of much fewer bits of data and image, because we're working aesthetically and we work socially with those independent groups in producing evidence. We socialize the production of evidence, we make it a collective social practice that involves the communities that are experiencing state violence continuously. At the same time, Forensic Architecture often works in places where there is seemingly a limited amount of the evidence or data that investigators typically rely upon, or with evidence that is biased. Police body cams show the officer’s perspective only, for example. Your work is coming at a time that people are describing as “post-truth.” How does the work of Forensic Architecture fit in to this political context? The very nature of what we call investigative aesthetics is based on working with weak signals and with partial data. You need to fill that gap with a relation between those points you have, sort of like stars in a dark sky. You see very few dots and we need to actually see how they can support the probability of something to have occurred. And any investigative work that comes from the point of view of civil society is both about demolishing and building. So we need to use our training as critical scholars in deconstructing police statements, or military statements taken by secret services or the government—and we need to take those ruins, those scattered bits of media flotsam that exist and build something else with it. There’s always demolition and rebuilding that takes place. That is very structural to our work. Right now, the mistrust in public institutions in the political sphere, In the so-called post-truth era, that trust is not being replaced. Those that tell us not to believe anymore in science and in think tanks and in experts are not building a new epistemology in its stead. They're simply demolishing it. Rhetoric replaces verification. What we do similarly to them is we are questioning state given truths. We are attacking those temples of power and knowledge, but we attempt to replace them with a much more imminent form of evidence production that socializes the production of that evidence.
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Trump administration begins blasting through an Arizona National Monument to erect border wall

With just under nine months until the United States presidential election, the Trump administration is pushing ahead with last-ditch efforts to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and it seems not even a National Monument can stand in its way. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) contractors have recently been instructed to blast through Monument Hill in the southernmost section of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a 500-square-mile park on the southern Arizona border that had been designated a United States National Monument and a UNESCO biosphere reserve, to erect another portion of the barrier. Indigenous and environmental activists have actively protested on the site since November of last year, informing the administration that the site is not only a valuable ecological site, but also one of spiritual and cultural importance to the Tohono O'odham Nation, a Native American people of the Sonoran Desert. Despite the fact that large swaths of the park have yet to be documented for uncharted ancient archaeological sites and animal habitats, demolition across the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument will continue unabated throughout the next month. Raúl Grijalva, the U.S. Representative for Arizona's 3rd congressional district, has stated that while the government has hired an environmental monitor, he believes little attention will be paid to preserving sites sacred to the Tohono O'odham Nation. “How would we feel,” Grijalva argued in a video posted to Twitter, “if a foreign nation came into the United States and began to dig up Arlington National Cemetery? Or if they began to desecrate cemeteries across the country?” He then committed to visiting with members of the O’odham Nation and others invested in the site to assess the damage that has already taken place. The DHS has already uprooted several saguaro cacti to make way for a makeshift roadway to be used for construction vehicles and drained water from a desert aquifer below the terrain to mix the concrete necessary for the 30-foot-tall barrier planned for the site. If the wall is completed, its floodlights and divisive siting will interrupt the migration of several native animal species.
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Border Tuner reaches over the U.S.–Mexico border to facilitate dialogue

The divisiveness of the U.S.-Mexico border wall’s construction in recent years has prompted members of the creative community to develop public protest art in response. Consider, in the last year alone, the bright pink seesaws Ronald Rael installed through the brown steel slats between Ciudad Juárez and New Mexico’s Sunland Park, or the Golden Wall fencing “prototype” New World Design proposed outside of the president’s Mar-a-Lago compound and golf course in Florida. The newest in the genre is a light installation erected by artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer that, much like Rael’s seesaws in particular, aims to bridge communication where the U.S. government strove to disrupt it. The installation, Border Tuner, placed spotlights on either side of the border of El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, for members of either city to operate. Attached to each spotlight was a microphone in which visitors were encouraged to voice their thoughts and, when the lights intersected in the sky over the border wall, a two-way channel of communication was opened, allowing the two to hear each other’s voices over loudspeakers. The intensity of the light beams was determined by the voices of participants, illuminating the divided sky by the cadence of vocal expression. For those who couldn't visit either site in person, they could have sent send pre-recorded messages online and watched the event take place on a livestream. Each night of the installation began with performances by local activists, artists, historians, and others whose indigenous voices confirmed the importance of communication in the globalized present against the suppressive agents that divide it. A physical wall may drive a wedge between cultures on the ground, but it can’t control what happens in the sky above it. "The idea that the artwork takes place above that wall to me is symbolically important because it's almost like you're trying to ignore it," said Lozano-Hemmer. "You're trying to say we still share the atmosphere." Though Border Tuner closed to the public on November 24 after opening on November 13, there will certainly be other installations to replace it as artists continue to explore the shared culture of the communities on either side of the border.
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Border wall construction could destroy 22 archaeological sites across Arizona

A new 123-page report by the National Park Service (NPS) has detailed the potential loss of ancient artifacts at the southern border as the United States continues to construct an extensive border wall. The culmination of a project conducted by NPS archaeologists at Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, the report highlights up to 22 endangered archaeological sites along a short stretch of the wall's path. The report, obtained by The Washington Post via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), is especially significant because of its authorship; the internal report shows concern coming directly from a sector of the federal government. The Organ Pipe Cactus area, which is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, received U.S. National Monument status in 1937. The area covers 330,688 acres of desert land southwest of Phoenix, and the 11.3-mile strip along the border has already seen significant physical damage from increased traffic of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents using all-terrain vehicles. The proposed plan to replace the existing 5-foot-tall vehicle barrier with a 30-foot illuminated steel wall has the potential to cause irreparable damage to archaeological fragments spanning the area’s 16,000 years of inhabitation. Concerns also stem from the ecological implications of dropping such a towering structure in a designated biosphere reserve. Environmentalists have repeatedly fought the federal government’s plans to run the wall through protected areas like the this, citing impositions on wildlife migration and the neglect of critically endangered species. Of particular concern is the Quitobaquito Springs area, an oasis 200 feet from the barrier that is inhabited by a number of threatened and declining species. The identification of these risks comes at a time when CBP is scrambling to complete 500 miles of barrier before the 2020 election at the request of President Trump. As the president continues to share the wall’s progress on social media, his administration continues to fight off lawsuits over construction on protected lands. Construction on the Organ Pipe Cactus reserve-area border wall officially began last month, as construction geared up for part of a 43-mile fence span that also cuts through Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Regufe. Kevin Dahl, Arizona’s senior program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, described how the time constraints are eliminating steps in the careful process of protecting Arizona’s archaeological sites: “Archaeology takes time, and they have a deadline,” Dahl told The Washington Post. “Putting a wall there is insane. This is just one more reason why ramming this wall through, using illegal, unconstitutional money, is damaging to these public resources. We’re destroying what the wall is supposed to protect.”
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Letter from the border: Architecture is more than walls

“I’ll bet you live within four walls” is one of the most frequent comments I get from proponents of building a wall along the southern border as a critique of my creative and activist endeavors against wall construction. The comments can be quite vile. Here is one comment (since deleted) on the YouTube posting of my recent TED talk,
"Thank you so much Ronald Rael! I'll come find your home and simply open your door, sit down and make myself at home! Pay rent? Nah essay! Rent is taxes homie! Permission to enter your home? Nah bendayho! I don't need permission to enter your home! You don't see the need for Mexicans to get permission to enter the United States! What's that? You'll call the cops? You snitch! What's that? You'll force me out of your home?! That's wrong to deport me outside of your walls that hold up your roof and prevent anyone from getting in!”
In addition to making an actual threat to my own personal home and property, something no immigrant I have ever met has done, he is mocking the variations in the Spanish language (“essay” is ese, a slang way of saying dude, “homie”, is someone from your hometown, and bendayho, I'm assuming, is pendejo, a word used to describe an imbecile, but literally means “pubic hair”). It might be futile to pen a response to such comments, but as a professor of architecture, it got me thinking… why do so many make a parallel between a country, and a house, when it comes to making an argument for the border wall? A quick internet search, thinking about the ridiculousness of this reaction—that if we build walls to enclose our house (which my TED Talk critic correctly notes are also often used to structurally support a roof), doesn’t it make sense to build walls around our country, and if so, what about a roof? This led me to an article in the New Yorker that suggested, in sarcastic response to the construction of walls, that we should also build a roof over our country! I’ve always been fascinated by utopian and dystopian architectural projects that challenge the conventions of our built environment, which is perhaps why I’ve been interested in the border wall. When thinking about mega-roofs, architect Buckminster Fuller’s proposal for an enormous dome to be constructed over a portion of Midtown Manhattan comes to mind. He suggested it would save 80 percent of energy costs and snow removal costs, so perhaps the proposal for a nationwide roof structure has its merits? The Sheats-Goldstein Residence, an experimental house designed in 1961 by John Lautner, was comprised of an enormous roof with no walls enclosing the main living space that connected to the exterior terrace and pool. Instead, the interior was defined and protected from the elements by a curtain of forced air, like those you might have experienced if you’ve ever entered a big box store. Construction on this incredible house began in 1961, the year that President Kennedy was inaugurated, the Peace Corps was established, and the first man went into space, a time when it seemed mankind could overcome impossible barriers but also the same year the Berlin Wall began construction (and we all know what happened to that). Many years later, the Sheats-Goldstein Residence was enclosed with a nearly invisible and retractable glass facade, as there were several impracticalities to not having a barrier between inside and outside that house, despite the balmy Los Angeles weather. However, the luxurious glass wall wasn’t necessarily installed for security, and certainly it wasn’t out of practicality—an inexpensive concrete wall may have been more practical, but would undermine the original concept of the house as well as the architect’s original intent of openness and connection. Perhaps in alignment to Lautner’s vision for how one defines the confines of a house, Franklin Delano Roosevelt laid out a concept for hemispheric security not beholden to a limited view of border fortification. Roosevelt said, “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.” With this in mind, what might Lautner and Roosevelt think of a 1,954-mile-long concrete-and-steel wall surrounding our house? Obviously neither would have thought it to be a necessity or practicality, nor perhaps in alignment with the original intent of the architects of our country. I wonder what they would think about a 3.8-million-square-mile roof? Economics professor David Youngberg points out the problems with making analogies between “my country” and “my house” and the two uses of the possessive pronoun “my”—one of which is possessive and the other, associative. While one may own a house, we do not own our country, we merely live in it. A country is public space. With this in mind, should we think about our country like we do our house, and does it need walls? If we agree with the argument, that if we live by surrounding ourselves at home with walls, therefore we should also surround our country with walls, then perhaps let’s take that argument further, and not forget other components of what makes a secure home in addition to the roof. For example, the floor, a basement perhaps, central heating… how about other components of the house, like a refrigerator, with healthy food for everyone in our house to eat or a comfortable bed and a warm place to sleep? What about a medicine cabinet accessible to everyone in the house! A porch and a welcome mat, to welcome neighbors are also important features in a house (clean your feet before coming in)! Surrounding our house, we enjoy a verdant garden and appreciate nice neighbors, and we lend tools to our neighbors, a cup of sugar, and we want our neighbors to prosper—do we really want to be the only nice house in the neighborhood? How about a neighborhood watch program? Don’t we want our neighbors to look out for us just as we look out for them? What about reliable plumbing to provide clean water? In our houses, we need a system that takes our bodily waste and delivers it to a place where it can be processed safely. Can you imagine the problems that would arise for everyone if we dumped it in our backyards, or our neighbor’s yard? Fresh air? Some of us have a heating and air conditioning system in our house that not only keeps our climate under control, but also filters the air, providing a place to live with comfortable, clean air. We don’t fill our house with pollution—we enjoy clean air inside our houses, and we probably all wish the air inside was as clean as the air outside, and vice versa, because we like to open our doors and windows to let the outside in—it helps keep our house fresh. Perhaps a house is not a country, but if we are to make that analogy, here are some thoughts of things to do rather than build that wall: Build that plumbing, and ensure safe, clean and reliable drinking water! Build that ventilation system, and ensure that no one remains out in the cold and breathes fresh air! Build that medicine cabinet, so that everyone’s heath in the house is cared for! Build those roofs, to make certain that everyone protected from the elements! Build those bedrooms, so that everyone has a place to rest their head at night! Build that floor, so we are all on an equal plane and a level playing field! Build that porch, and lay out that welcome mat! Build that neighborhood, so that everyone in our global community has a house that ensures safety, security, and neighborliness across our own property lines! A couple more thoughts; we also don’t shoot guns inside our house, and certainly not at other people in the house. We also do not lock up neighboring families from other houses inside our house for indefinite amounts of time, or separate our neighbor's children from their parents and keep them in cages inside our house if they came knocking at our door seeking help. —Ronald Rael, Oakland, September 7, 2019  
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The Architecture Lobby calls for pledges against designing detention centers

The Architecture Lobby (T-A-L) and Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR) are once again calling on architects to boycott the design and construction of immigration detention centers and deterrence infrastructure.  Both groups issued a joint statement in April of last year condemning the U.S. Justice Department’s zero-tolerance immigration enforcement policy, and are now asking architects to sign a pledge saying they refuse to participate in projects that have anything to do with border walls, Border Patrol stations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices, detention facilities, or juvenile holding centers. The pledge also encourages architects and affiliated industry professionals to speak out against the reportedly atrocious conditions of these facilities and to organize in their individual workplace or educational institution to combat any involvement.  “These violent and racist policies are designed to cause fear and chaos,” said T-A-L and ADPSR in a joint press release. “[They] target those seeing asylum and refuge, and weaponize the built environment against immigrants.” According to both advocacy organizations, architects have the responsibility to “uphold the public’s health, safety, and welfare,” and because of this, they must stand up against such human rights violations. Not only is T-A-L trying to get more architects on board via this pledge, but it's also offering services to firms, universities, or groups that need help organizing in the workplace or creating divestment campaigns.    You can read the growing list of pledge supporters here and sign on yourself. This call comes on the heels of the American Institute of Architectsrecent release denouncing the conditions of detention centers at the U.S.-Mexico border. Per its Code of Ethics, AIA members are also urged to “uphold human rights in all their professional endeavors.” It said its members must support government policies and regulations that enhance transparency on the issue, as well as fight for the creation of standards that improve the health, safety, and welfare requirements of all buildings. The AIA also called for building inspectors to ensure that structures are in full compliance with current building codes and that any violations regarding health and safety be fixed immediately.  Though these leading architectural organizations believe that socially-responsible architects should be in no way involved in reforming immigration detention centers or similar buildings, there are some architects that think the opposite. Last summer, when CityLab reported on T-A-L and ADPSR’s initial call to boycott, it highlighted the opinion of one designer at Gehry Partners who believed design professionals “should take the lead and devise alternative environments to house immigrants with dignity.” Instead of staying silent, architects should advocate for facilities with natural light, ample space, good ventilation, access to the outdoors, and privacy, she said. It seems, however, that the most pressing architectural issue here is not the creation of new detention centers that are designed in a healthy way, it's that the ones currently being used weren't programmed for housing hundreds and thousands of migrants in the first place. Last July, AN published a piece on the brief architectural success of the Tornillo-Guadalupe International Bridge near El Paso, which opened in 2016 and was anticipated to support a slew of traffic. Though the structure was highly-lauded as a “collaborative binational security effort,” wrote Erseal Kripa and Stephen Muller of AGENCY Architecture, it was a failure due to lack of an economic engine. The site became a census-designated tent city known as Tornillo, where it held thousands of migrant children until it was shut down in January. U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced it will reopen the site this week to house adults instead due to overcrowding in nearby Texas detention centers.  These situations and calls from both sides of the aisle raise the question of whether architects should step in to revamp the current conditions by offering their design services, or should they instead use their voices to urge political lawmakers to end the detainment of migrants altogether? Is this a black and white issue? Is it ethical for architects to do both?
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Rael San Fratello turns the U.S.–Mexico border into a joyous seesaw playground

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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Products of border wall research may expand to the rest of the construction industry

Over ten days this past spring, a privately funded group named We Build the Wall hurriedly constructed a segment of the proposed United States–Mexico border wall in Sunland Park, New Mexico. The rapid erection of this so-called “gift to America” shocked nearby communities and the project served as a startling proof of concept for emerging wall construction technologies. Developed under the auspices of the Trump administration’s border wall request for proposals, these are the products of a technological arms race to improve the speed and efficiency in which national security infrastructure can be delivered. The segment is the first product of what will surely become a growing list of building technologies developed as part of the xenophobic border wall project. These technologies will shape project delivery expectations, methods, and outcomes in the borderland and beyond as the building industry and the built environment inherit securocratic technologies developed in the shadow of the wall. As construction companies attempt to curry favor with the administration, there has been an uptick in patent filings for construction systems and project delivery methods explicitly tied to border wall construction. In 2018 alone, there were three such patents filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), including designs for a border wall built of shipping containers, a “power-generating border wall,” and a “multifunctional solar-powered barrier wall,” which included financing instruments its inventors argued would allow the wall to pay for itself. Fisher Sand & Gravel, the North Dakota company responsible for the construction of the wall in Sunland Park, holds a patent (through its subsidiary, General Steel & Supply Company) for a proprietary “concrete forming system” designed to expedite border wall construction. Claiming the technique would allow completion of the entire border wall within six years and under budget, Fisher was one of six companies picked to build a wall prototype in Otay Mesa, California, after the Trump administration’s RFP for border barriers in 2017. Fisher’s concrete-forming patent describes a novel process which capitalizes on modified construction equipment to rapidly form and cure extensive, continuous, cast-in-place concrete panels. At the core of the proposal are modified excavators adapted to traverse mountainous terrain equipped with “quick connect” arm couplers capable of positioning massive steel formwork. The excavators and steel forms, per the patent’s argument, eliminate the need for numerous, labor-intensive ties and bracing that more typical concrete construction would require, while also eliminating the transportation costs and potential breakage associated with positioning individual precast panels. The steel formwork can be rotated on three axes, controlling for pitch, yaw, and roll, allowing endless adjustments in “attitude, position, and/or orientation," in rugged borderland terrain. The flexible system allows operators to control the wall section of the barrier, facilitating wall designs of equal thickness, tapered “triangular-shaped” walls, or “any other orientation or configuration." Patent drawings show a veritable army of excavators choreographed to position alternating sections of steel formwork with military discipline. As the wall is poured, the edges of completed freestanding sections are incorporated as formwork for infill panels, allowing a nonstop rhythm of pouring and curing along the line. In a self-assured video extolling the virtues of its method, Fisher boasts that its wall, covering the entirety of the land border with Mexico, will protect the U.S. for 150 years to come. A Customs and Border Protection (CBP) test team evaluated the construction of Fisher’s prototype in Otay Mesa and noted that—along with all concrete prototypes—the proposal would face “extensive” challenges in construction. Its concrete design having failed to procure the elusive border-wall contract, Fisher incorporated much of the same proprietary technology and delivery protocols into a modified steel design. Videos online show Fisher’s technique for construction of a steel bollard fence using a similar process to the one outlined in the concrete-forming patent. Workers first prepare a trench and position a fleet of modified excavators around the site. Instead of positioning metal formwork, the vehicles are outfitted with a custom trussed hanger spanning 56 feet on which workers hang prefabricated sections of bollard fence. The vehicles then position the long sections, drop them into the trench, level and align as necessary, and fix the bollards in a poured concrete foundation. Unlike the concrete-forming method, which requires excavators to be positioned on both sides of the fence, the steel fence can be erected with machines working from one side only. During demonstrations, the company pointed out that the construction process would not breach the international boundary. According to Fisher, the bollard-fence hanging system is “patent-pending,” though no record of a new application from Fisher Industries or subsidiaries is yet available on the USPTO database. A remarkably similar design for a “bollard fence” was filed by Neusch Innovations in December 2018 and may be related. Company executive Tommy Fisher relentlessly promoted Fisher’s steel design as a faster, cheaper, and better alternative to other techniques, a bold triad of claims given the realities of the construction industry. The Republican donor has aggressively targeted this message to conservative outlets like Fox News, largely gaining the support of border wall advocates, and even Trump himself, whose fervor for the wall Fisher consistently praises. Trump has allegedly tried repeatedly to influence the public bid process by pushing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to award Fisher the contract, as yet to no avail. Fisher, meanwhile, has demonstrated his construction technique to politicians in Arizona, claiming the tests prove his company capable of building 218 miles of the border wall in one year. Despite the USACE’s negative appraisal of the design and Department of Homeland Security officials’ negative views of the company, Fisher eventually found a partner to build the steel assembly in the privately funded, pro-wall, conservative nonprofit We Build the Wall. Fisher construction crews descended on Sunland Park over Memorial Day weekend, armed with specially equipped excavators and prefabricated bollard steel fencing. Construction was reported complete ten days later, with about a half-mile of barrier constructed in the formerly pristine environment. The shocking speed of construction, enabled by Fisher’s proprietary methods and equipment, obscured the project’s significant damage. The new border wall, although built on private property, abuts federal property, and its locked gate blocked entry to the American Diversion Dam, a critical piece of national infrastructure. The International Boundary and Water Commission, the agency that manages waterways on the U.S.–Mexico border, has ordered the gate to remain open to allow for operations and maintenance at the dam. Additionally, to create a relatively horizontal cross-section for the border fence appropriate for the company’s method, Fisher filled an existing deep arroyo with 200,000 cubic yards of soil. The effects of this extensive terraforming within a fragile desert ecology are unknown, as the company did not perform an environmental impact assessment. Scientists speculate that much of the disturbed soil was heavily polluted from nearby industry and will precipitate into the Rio Grande, sending more pollutants downstream, mostly into Mexican farms. While we as architects might resist the border wall itself, we must also respond to the myriad advances in the construction industry which have matured in its wake. Efficiencies must not be gained at the expense of human dignity or lives.
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Architects crowdfund money for border fence prototype around Mar-a-Lago

Following an unsuccessful attempt at floating a line of Pink Floyd-style golden pigs in front of the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago, architecture studio New World Design has turned its attention to a new piece of protest art. The group is now crowdfunding on GoFundMe to build a 30-foot-tall, golden wall “prototype” outside of the president’s Mar-a-Lago compound and golf course in Florida. As the government shutdown over $5.7 billion in southern border wall funding has dragged on to become the longest shutdown in history, New World Design is looking to raise $570 million for U.S.-Mexico Border Wall: A Study in Absurdity. The project is a tongue-in-cheek response to the viral, but unsuccessful, campaign to crowdfund the border wall. The 30-foot-tall, ornamented picket fence would be plated in gold and “lethally” electrified. Six new coal-fired power plants across the U.S.-Mexico border would power the barrier. The group has proposed first installing it at Mar-a-Lago as a “legitimate constructibility test,” a callback to the eight border wall prototypes built and tested in Otay Mesa, California. This project is much less tangible than Flying Pigs on Parade: A Chicago River Folly, and the group expects that it won’t hit its sky-high goal; any of the money raised will instead be donated to the International Refugee Assistance Program.
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Artist draws the U.S.–Mexico border outside Houston

Artist Molly Gochman is drawing her newest land art piece directly on the surface of the earth, at a large enough scale that it will only be legible as a whole to passengers flying in or out of the nearby George Bush International Airport in Houston. Border US-MX, 2018, International Airport Houston will be a temporary artwork in the shape of the U.S.–Mexico border drawn in a bright red color in the middle of a highway interchange. Gochman said in a statement that the work is meant to raise awareness about human trafficking. Her ongoing Red Sand Project is a participatory artwork that invites people to fill in cracks with red sand, and then document and share the result to encourage discussion and activism on the issue. Gochman said in a statement: "The undulating, irregular border of Texas—created by the natural curves of Rio Grande—in contrast with the straight lines and edges of the other states, highlights the arbitrary ways in which borders are drawn." The 650-foot-long work evolved out of "the ways in which borders and migration connect to vulnerabilities and susceptibility to exploitation," Gochman said in a statement. The work will be up through the end of April.
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All eight border wall prototypes fail basic penetrability test

As the Trump administration prepares to potentially declare a national emergency to jumpstart construction of a wall along the U.S.’s southern border—as well as possibly using storm aid funds to do so—the viability of the wall itself has come under fire. In a photo obtained by NBC News, one of the steel bollard border wall prototypes in Otay Mesa, California, was easily breached using an off-the-shelf saw. The eight border wall prototypes in Otay Mesa (directly across from Tijuana in Mexico) were assembled in early 2017 after an executive order directed the Department of Homeland Security to design and build a southern border wall. Four concrete wall segment mockups, and four from mixed materials, were assembled in the desert. The 30-foot-tall prototypes were graded on their aesthetic qualities in August 2018, but testing in late 2017 has revealed that all eight may be easy to penetrate. On “Pogo Row”, a testing area near the California-Mexico border, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents were instructed to try to breach the eight border wall segments—and eventually broke through all eight. Using saws and other hand tools, teams were able to cause holes “larger than 12-inches in diameter or square,” the DHS standard definition of breaching. According to a redacted version of the CBP report obtained through a freedom of information request from the San Diego-based KPBS, replicas of each prototype’s first ten feet were tested for breaching. One (redacted) technique proved so destructive during the first test that further experimenting was postponed, as officials feared it would destabilize the structural integrity of the other models before they could be thoroughly assessed. No testing on how well the walls were able to resist tunneling appears to have been conducted, despite that being a major design criterion in the Request for Proposal. Additionally, none of the eight designs met the requirements for adaptability across the thousands of miles of the border’s rugged, varied terrain. For its part, the DHS has argued that no wall is impenetrable and that by slowing migrants trying to breach it, Border Patrol agents are given time to respond. DHS spokeswoman Katie Waldman told NBC that the prototypes were only meant to inform the final design moving forward. When asked about the photo obtained by NBC yesterday, President Trump responded that, “that’s a wall designed by previous administrations.” While previous administrations have used steel bollards at the border, the prototypes tested were built by the Trump administration.
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Government shutdown over border wall could drag on well into the new year

The United States is entering the thirteenth day of a partial government shutdown after Congress failed to reach an agreement before the December 21st deadline, with President Trump promising to veto any bill that did not include $5 billion for a border wall. On Wednesday, January 2, Trump shot down a $2.5 billion compromise bill proposed by his own vice president Mike Pence, as well as a compromise suggested by Senate Republicans that would couple border wall funding with DACA legislation offering deportation relief and work visas to young undocumented immigrants who had been brought to the United States as children. These rejections follow last week's failure to reach an agreement in Congress to stop the shutdown, with House Republicans shooting down a Democratic attempt to fund the government in the short term. This leaves nine federal agencies shuttered, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation, alongside the Departments of Agriculture, Justice, Treasury, Commerce, Homeland Security, Interior, and State. FEMA announced it would be unable to process flood insurance policies, thus affecting home sales, while many workers, including Forest Service firefighters, TSA employees, air traffic controllers, and Customs and Border Protection agents have to report for work without being paid. The effect is also being felt in the country's national parks, which have been kept open without the workers to maintain them, overwhelming trash and sanitation systems. All told, approximately 800,000 federal employees and the people who rely on them are affected, with roughly 350,000 workers furloughed without pay. That border wall funding is at the center of the current shutdown is perhaps not surprising. Trump has long signaled that the border wall is the hill on which he has planted his flag. But a look at the past several years of failed negotiations on the issue between the White House and Congress, even a Republican-led one, shows just how malleable the definition of the border wall is. Even for Trump, whose cheery Christmas message was a promise that the shutdown would continue until the border wall was funded, the form of the wall has shifted from one composed of solid concrete to a transparent one to "artistically designed steel slats." Beyond the rhetoric of the current showdown, however, over the past two years, only 6 percent of the $1.7 billion allocated for the border wall has been expended by the administration. Tests of the latest prototypes also cast doubt on their effectiveness and sheer feasibility, considering the terrain and environments the wall is expected to traverse. On Thursday, when Democrats gain control of the House, they are expected to approve two bills that would halt the shutdown and maintain current levels of border security funding for measures at the U.S.–Mexico border to the tune of $1.3 billion. This funding is only designated for improving existing segments of fencing and enhancing surveillance capacities. Are the existing fences already part of the so-called border wall? What would Trump's envisioned border wall bring to the existing barriers of sheet metal, barbed-wire-topped metal fencing, and concrete columns? But it remains to be seen whether Trump will approve those bills or extend his costly political standoff. For perspective, the 16-day government shutdown in 2013 cost taxpayers millions, with $2.5 billion in back pay given to furloughed workers and $70 million lost from national park revenue alone.