Posts tagged with "US-Mexico Border":

57th Carnegie International will bring artists who engage spatial politics around the world

The Carnegie International is the oldest exhibition of contemporary art in North America, founded by industrialist Andrew Carnegie in 1896 just one year after the first Venice Biennale. The exhibition was designed to help identify the “Old Masters of tomorrow.” The recent announcement of participating artists in the 57th iteration of the International, which opens on October 13, 2018 at the Carnegie Museum of Art (CMoA) in Pittsburgh, is a look at who these new "old masters" might be. Curated by Ingrid Schaffner, who was chief curator at the Institute for Contemporary Art in Philadelphia before taking the helm of the International in 2015, the list lives up to her reputation for taking an expansive approach to contemporary art. While only one artist has an architectural background—Saba Innab, an architect and urban researcher practicing between Amman and Beirut—several of the exhibition’s artists explore questions of territory, body, commodity, craft, agency, and spatial practice. The participants are all working on site-specific works for the CMoA, so this International will certainly be an immersive and provocative museum experience. Here’s a look at what’s to come. Innab’s work, pictured above, explores the relationship between architecture and territory, exemplified by her cast depicting the rock of Gibraltar in the 2016 Marrakech Biennale. It is fitting, then, that she will install work in dialogue with the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Hall of Architecture, a historic collection of plaster casts of building fragments from around the world. Postcommodity, an interdisciplinary arts collective that explores “Indigenous narratives of cultural self-determination,” will also address spatial and cultural politics head-on. Their recent work, Repellent Fence (2015), for example, was a 2-mile work that consisted of 26 balloons stretching across the U.S.-Mexico border. The design of the balloons references both indigenous iconography and “an ineffective bird repellent product,” and signal unity between indigenous peoples, the land, and history. Park McArthur is a New York-based artist whose work examines notions of accessibility, agency, and the city. Her 2014 exhibition at ESSEX GALLERY, for example, gathered the improvised ramps used by twenty galleries in Lower Manhattan in a minimalist arrangement on the gallery floor. Similarly, at SFMOMA in 2017, where she displayed design drawings and improvised ramps made by family and friends to accommodate her wheelchair in everyday spaces. The Carnegie Museum of Art’s Heinz Architectural Center will host works by Jessi Reaves, known for her sculptural furniture that looks both familiar and somewhat grotesque, with common materials assembled in unsettling combinations that plays with ideas of incompletion in art and design. Reaves’ voluptuous recliners will neighbor work by Beverly Semmes and her Feminist Responsibility Project (FRP), which explore issues of censorship and the female body overlaying paint onto pages of “gentlemen’s magazines.” The FRP is one project in Semme’s practice, which otherwise operates at an architectural scale. Schaffner describes Beverly Semmes' art as flowing “from the female body and out into the landscape,” with flowing dresses the scale of a room. New Dehli-based photographer Dayanita Singh’s concern for the physical relationship between the viewer and the photograph has led her into an exploration of architectural and spatial arrangements for her work. Singh designs standalone “museums” for her photographs that, as she described in a recent talk at the Silver Eye Center for Photography in Pittsburgh, “liberate the photograph from the wall.” Koyo Kouoh, a Dakar-based “exhibition-maker,” will similarly take the visitor’s relationship to artwork into her own hands. Kouoh is founding artistic director of RAW Material Company in Dakar, Senegal, and for the International she will organize “Dig Where You Stand.” This exhibition within an exhibition will mine the Carnegie Museums’ collections to reconfigure the galleries devoted to “Pre-1300, African, and Asian Art.” “Koyo’s piece would be a lever for clearing this out, something the museum has wanted to do for a long time, a rupture so that we can begin again,” Schaffner said. Though probing the term “international,” the exhibition meaningfully ties into Pittsburgh’s artists and histories. Conceptual artist Mel Bochner will make a homecoming, and Pittsburgh-based artists Lenka Clayton & Jon Rubin will develop a new work based on the International’s archives. This International will feature sculptor Thaddeus Mosley, whose wooden carvings were inspired by the Internationals of the early 1950s. Photograph from the archives of Teenie Harris, a prolific photojournalist for the Pittsburgh Courier, will offer a new look at the post-industrial city’s past. Though the International opens in October, the fun is already underway. One of Schaffner’s aims is to spark “museum joy” in visitors. In fact, the curatorial team is sharing the delight of all aspects of the exhibition, from the design process to the curatorial research, through the International’s website. Wkshps founder Prem Krishnamurthy’s article chronicles the charrettes that brought the editorial, curatorial, and design teams together early in the process to, in Schaffner’s words, “design for the unknown.” Travelogue essays written by writers who weren’t with Schaffner on her extensive travel research take the reader into new territories nonetheless. Illustrator Maira Kalman’s fanciful interpretation of Schaffner’s pilgrimage to Zaha Hadid’s Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan and historian Markus Rediker’s analysis of Vodou Surrealism in response to a curatorial trip to the Caribbean are particularly worth a read. Following Andrew Carnegie’s ambitions for the museum, Schaffner has tasked each artist to lead a public workshop, or “Tam O’Shanter drawing session.” Thaddeus Mosley has already done a workshop on jazz playlists, and a class used coffee to paint with Ho Chi Minh City-based collective Art Labor. In April, visitors can make zines with Mimi Cherono Ng’ok and artifact critters with Lucy Skaer. With many more events to be announced in coming months, this is already a very playful and political exhibition not to be missed.

Ten architecture shows you don’t want to miss before they close

The new year may signal a turn to fresh beginnings, but before we close the book on 2017, this is the last chance to catch a range of thoughtfully-curated exhibits centered on design, history, planning, technology, and architecture. From a photographic survey of U.S.–Mexico border monuments to Isamu Noguchi's internment camp archive and a showcase of MacArthur genius grant winner Hector's work on urban processes, these shows engage the present and past of architecture in provocative ways. Don't sleep on these shows! Tu casa es mi casa Neutra VDL 2300 Silver Lake Blvd, Los Angeles, CA Closing January 13, 2018 This exhibit sheds light on the porous boundary between Mexico City and Los Angeles, with a focus on " architectural space, mass production, and domesticity within the legacy of modernism." The show displays site-specific installations by three Mexico City–based design teams, Frida Escobedo, Pedro&Juana, and Tezontle, who responded to letters from three California-based writers, Aris Janigian, Katya Tylevich, and David Ulin, who each spent time in the Neutra house.   Joris Laarman Lab: Design in the Digital Age Cooper Hewitt, 2 E 92st Street, New York Closing January 15, 2018 The Cooper Hewitt is hosting the first major American exhibition of the Dutch designer Joris Laarman, who mixes traditional craftsmanship with modern fabrication to produce unique furniture design. On display is a range of Laarman’s work, arranged thematically to reveal each shift in his firm’s investigation of digital design.   Scaffolding Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Place, New York City Closing January 18 Greg Barton’s Scaffolding is an examination of the broad uses of scaffolding as a tool of utility in creating spaces of inhabitation and facilitating access to such spaces. With the widespread use of scaffolding across New York City, measuring an approximate length of 280 miles, the exhibit allows the audience to reimagine the ubiquitous temporary structures as potentially engaging features of the city’s streetscape.     No. 9 Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, 1172 Amsterdam Avenue, New York Closing January 19, 2018 No. 9 is an archival collection of the public sculpture program initiated in Mexico City for the 1968 Olympics. Termed the La Ruta de la Amistad (Route of Friendship), the network of nineteen monumental sculptures was influenced by multinational and modernist aesthetics, the only caveats of their design being abstract, composed of concrete and monumental in size. All the Queens Houses The Architectural League of New York, 594 Broadway, Suite 607, New York Closing January 26, 2018 The Architectural League’s All of the Queens Houses is a collection of 273 photographs of residences in Queens taken by architect Rafael Herrin-Ferri. The collection explores the vernacular, low-rise housing stock of the borough and the demographic diversity therein. Although Herrin-Ferri’s project contains over 5,000 photographs, those presented by the League are located in 34 neighborhoods across the borough.  

Self-Interned, 1942: Noguchi in Poston War Relocation Center The Noguchi Museum, 9-01 33rd Road (at Vernon Boulevard), Long Island City, NY Closing January 28, 2018

The show is centered on sculptor Isamu Noguchi's decision to voluntarily report to Poston, a Japanese internment camp in Arizona, in order to contribute his designs and skills to support the forcibly displaced residents. It features over two dozen works by Noguchi from 1941 to 1944, created pre- and post-internment, evoking this dark moment in American democracy and the impact of this experience on his art.   Damon Rich and Jae Shin: Space Brainz—Yerba Buena 3000 Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA Closing January 28, 2018
In Space Brainz–Yerba Buena 3000, the gallery becomes a laboratory for dissecting power in the built environment through Hector’s recent projects in architecture and planning in North American cities. A colorful structure that fills the space is the framework on which Hector's models, photographs, and mock-ups take viewers on a journey of urban issues on many scales, from broken sidewalks to riverfront projects, suggesting that the city is a place where negotiation and conflicting interests are the only constants.  
Monuments: 276 Views of the U.S.–Mexico Border by David Taylor The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Caroline Wiess Law Building, 1001 Bissonnet Street, Houston Closing January 28, 2018 Almost a decade ago, photographer David Taylor set out to photograph the 276 obelisks that mark the U.S.–Mexico boundary established at the end of the Mexican–American War in 1848. This project took him along the 690 miles of border, often on foot, requiring special permissions, and culminated at a time when the border has re-emerged as a political flashpoint. This exhibit, in the artist's own words, a glimpse of what the border actually looks like, at a time when it seems to mostly exist in the realm of caricature and threat.   Every Building in Baghdad: The Rifat Chadirji Archives at Arab Image Foundation  LAX ART, 7000 California State Route 2, West Hollywood Closing February 17, 2018 The current instability of Iraq and Syria has destroyed and threatened countless structures of architectural significance, erasing large swaths of heritage in the Cradle of Civilization. A respite from this loss is the archival collection of organizations such as the Arab Image Foundation with their collection of photographs by Iraq architect Rifat Chadirji, who was pivotal to Baghdad's postwar modernization between the 1950s and 1970s. LAX ART is currently showing 60 photographic paste-ups of Chadirji's body of work, as well as hundreds of the architect's photographs of the streets of Baghdad in the 20th century.   Never Built New York Queens Museum, New York City Building, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens, NY Closing February 18, 2018 AN‘s Contributing Editor Sam Lubell with contributor, critic, and writer Greg Goldin, shows a New York that could have been, featuring original prints, drawings, and models that never made it past the drawing board. Combed from over 40 different public and private collections, the show brings together the visions of Frank Lloyd Wright, Robert Moses, Eliot Noyes, and Steven Holl, among many others, and also shows a glimpse of the city's famous icons as they were originally planned. A bouncy castle version of Noyes' Westinghouse Pavilion and an insertion of 70 models into the Panorama of New York City, the scale model of the city, are among its highlights.

Mexican artist’s clay volumes respond to Trump’s border wall and other social barriers

In September, the Mexican-born artist Bosco Sodi responded to Trump’s border wall plans with "Muro," a one-day performance installation in Washington Square Park in downtown New York City. “Muro” translates to “wall” in Spanish, an apt title for what Sodi built, brick by brick, with the help of his Mexican creative friends living in the city and anyone who happened to be in the park between 3 and 8 p.m. After every brick was stacked, the wall was torn down by the same people who might otherwise be on both sides of the wall, suggestively breaking down physical and mental barriers. Sodi made 1,600 clay bricks for Muro by extracting raw earth and mixing it with water and sand to form clay–a vernacular Mexican building material. The clay was then shaped and smoothed by hand into solid cubes that were left to air dry in the sun at his studio in Oaxaca, Mexico. Once cured, the cubes were fired in a traditional brick kiln with wood, jacaranda seeds, and coconut shells. Using the same process, Sodi formed clay cube sculptures, which he considers “living sculptures,” for Caryatides, his first solo exhibit at Paul Kasmin Gallery, on view until January 6, 2018. Stacked in a series of volumes, the cubes are a material amalgam of varied terra cotta hues, streaks of green and black, and jolie laide surfaces. The Architect's Newspaper spoke with Bosco Sodi about his exhibit and his process.  Architect's Newspaper: Why clay? Bosco Sodi: Clay is one of the early material building materials. It is poetic, representing the essence of human building. I have been using clay for 3 years. It began when I started to go very often to see the [local] clay workers. I visited them and started to experiment. I wanted to do something that was seemingly impossible to develop with the material. It took a year to develop a cube that did not split and break. We made them by hand, and then we let them dry in the sun for two months, then they cook in the kiln. Each [Caryatides] cube weighs 3,000 pounds.  AN: What is unique about your process of making these works? BS: Made with no mold, they are completely human-formed. The materials [themselves] are unpredictable; they create a unique result each time. The clay cubes and bricks are made by hand, in the same process to build the wall in Washington Square Park and the sculptures in the gallery. They are political pieces. AN: How is the material political? BS: All of the bricks have different colors, yet they are made the same. They are the metaphor of the dream of what it meant to come [to the United States]. AN: And then, the political meaning came into form as performance at the Muro installation? BS: Yes. We put up a wall in the U.S. made by Mexicans with Mexican elements: sun, water, fire, wind, and earth. It was made in a public place, New York, by Mexicans. Then, we let everyone take it down. It was a social performance where you become part of a happening and a result of the piece. Caryatides, the first solo exhibition devoted to Bosco Sodi’s clay cube sculptures, is on view through January 6, 2018 at Paul Kasmin Gallery on 515 West 27th Street. *This interview was edited minimally for clarity.

Eight border wall prototypes are unveiled along the U.S.–Mexico border

Eight prototypes for President Donald Trump's border wall were unveiled this week on the U.S.-Mexico border, not far from Tijuana and San Diego. The prototypes stand up to 30 feet tall. Four are constructed from concrete while the remainder are each constructed of a different material, including corrugated steel and brick. The contractors who built the prototypes are Caddell Construction, ELTA North America, W.G. Yates & Sons, Fisher Sand & Gravel/DBA Fisher, Texas Sterling Construction, and KWR Construction. On Monday morning, a media tour of the prototypes was led by Roy Villareal, the deputy chief patrol agent of the U.S. Border Patrol's San Diego sector. Two of the designs feature a slatted base through which the other side can be seen. A rendering released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection showed that the more transparent wall designs are intended for the Mexican side of the border, with the concrete and solid wall types used on the northern, U.S. side of the border. Former border patrol agent Rowdy Adams told CNBC that visibility is also important in identifying potential crossers, "whether it's 10 people or 30 people with ... rifles." Additionally, environmentalists had raised concerns that a solid wall would impede the migration of small animals. Since Congress hasn't yet demonstrated any serious commitment to appropriating the nearly $21.6 billion required for the border wall, it is unlikely any of these prototypes will go into mass production in the near future. However, Villareal suggested that the border patrol might implement some of the designs to replace older, worn-down sections of the existing wall. Even if the wall were to gain full funding, it remains steeped in controversy. Several manufacturers have stated their refusal to supply materials for the wall's construction, including concrete suppliers Cemex and LafargeHolcim. Additionally, three of the six firms selected to build prototypes have previously defrauded the government or otherwise been steeped in controversy. Testing of the wall prototypes will occur in late November by a private contractor that border patrol agents declined to name. The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) is committed to regular, rigorous coverage of the border wall and the controversy that surrounds it. To that end, AN has partnered with El Paso, Texas–based AGENCY to bring readers Border Dispatches, “an on-the-ground perspective from the United States-Mexico border.” Each month, the series explores a critical site or person shaping the mutable binational territory between the two neighboring countries. For more news, opinion, and information on the border wall, visitarchpaper.com/tag/border-wall.  

Only surveillance technology manages this U.S.–Mexico border crossing

In one of the most remote stretches of the United States–Mexico border, a different kind of border crossing has emerged: A remotely managed mash-up of new document-processing technology, rowboats, and donkeys.

The Boquillas Port of Entry (POE) does not have the large processing volume of a typical port on the Southwest U.S. border with Mexico. In high season, the crossing will process a couple of hundred visitors a day; no vehicles are allowed. Most days only a few tourists pass through.

For years, the U.S. government shuttered the remote crossing, citing security concerns after 9/11. Only after National Park Service rangers and teams of scientists expressed a need to reconnect across the binational divide did the port reopen in 2013; a new processing facility was also constructed to manage the minimal security concerns.

It is hard to imagine a less likely area for illegal entry. The crossing is hours from the nearest large city, in Big Bend National Park (BBNP), land controlled and managed by the National Park Service (NPS). The surrounding landscape is majestic, but foreboding for those on foot, with steep canyons, ravines, thick vegetation, and the Rio Grande providing a host of formidable natural barriers. Park visitors are warned of the dangers of heat stroke, exposure, and dehydration, even in mild months.

The binational imaginary here is pervasive and persistent. BBNP is part of the most expansive and biodiverse desert region in the U.S., and shares a transnational ecosystem with natural preserves on the Mexican side. Here, the two nations seem knit together by the river valley, and diverse advocates on both sides voice strong opposition to the proposed expansion of the International Border Fence through the region.

In the early 20th century, landscape architect Albert William Dorgan imagined transforming this land into an International Peace Park, a hyperbolic simulacrum of the real and imagined opportunities latent in border space, complete with replica frontier towns and hydroelectric power. Even in this idyllic proposal, national security concerns crept in—a scenic motorway for tourists was proposed, with a double use to support expedited military deployments.

While cultural affinities remain, the binational dream of a joint international park has faded in the midst of stark juridical differences and philosophies of land management on the two sides of the river. In the U.S., the NPS manages and enforces the conservation and protection efforts. While the Mexican land enjoys protected status, it is mostly privately owned, and is allowed to maintain traditional land uses. Communal land (ejidos) transforms the territory through farming and agricultural water use.

The remoteness of the area, coupled with strong ecological and cultural affinities, has produced unlikely cross-border partnerships, enacting an exuberant transnational territory despite calcifying juridical barriers. Longstanding agreements, in place since the 1960s and more recently amended, have allowed both U.S. and Mexican firefighting services to cross the international boundary within a “zone of mutual assistance”—a ten-mile swath on either side of the border—when property or lives are threatened. Select Mexican nationals form a crew of experienced firefighters—Los Diablos—with permission to work within U.S. territory. Supported by the Park Service and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), they set controlled burns to rid the banks of the Rio Grande of invasive plant species. BBNP has a “sister park” partnership with two adjacent protected areas in Mexico, and park officials travel through the Boquillas POE to share conservation techniques. The reopening of the port has helped park officials to connect more often and more directly, avoiding long detours through “narco territory,” perilous regions with high cartel activity.

The border crossing station is itself supported by an unlikely partnership. The port of entry falls under the purview of the Big Bend Sector of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which happens to have the most “border miles” of any sector on the southwest border with Mexico. Unlike other POEs, it is the first to not be managed on site by U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) agents, but by an NPS ranger. CBP remotely manages the site through nearby mobile patrols of border patrol agents stationed in the park, capable of collapsing on the site in short time if needed. Sensing technology and nearby checkpoints further limit unauthorized movements.

When we visit early on an August day in 2017, we wait for the port to open. It is only open certain days at certain hours. A park ranger warns us that if we do not make it back by the time he closes the port, we will need to stay in Mexico for the night. 

Down a short, winding path from the POE, surveillance cameras and a wake of turkey vultures monitor a boat launch, while a small rowboat grandiloquently named the Boquillas International Ferry shuttles a few travelers at a time across the Rio Grande for a $5 round-trip fee. The river crossing is easy, relaxed—the 30-foot journey over in under a minute. Once in Mexico, visitors can travel by burro, taxi, or on foot to the former mining town of Boquillas del Carmen, about a mile away.

The town is welcoming, but sleepy in the early morning and August heat. Visitors are rare this time of year. Children ride burros to the crossing in hopes of a busier afternoon. When it's time to return, we need to work to get our passport stamped, waking the Mexican customs official and asking that he open the office to complete the processing.

According to a press release in 2014, issued on the first anniversary of the new international crossing, the “state-of-the-art” border crossing employed “cutting-edge technologies” to secure this new outpost, building on the “already robust border security in the area.” As we reenter the POE, this technological infusion is evident, if awkwardly executed. Two kiosks with document scanners are wired into an old-school telephone receiver. Fingerprint scanners, like those now common at airport customs processing facilities, provide secondary ID confirmation. The telephone rings, and a Border Patrol agent located five hours away in El Paso asks a few questions and welcomes us to the United States. If there is robust security here, it is in the untold sensors, cameras, and field agents invisible from this unassuming ranger station.

As congressional committees call for “advanced unattended surveillance sensors” and other managerial landscape technologies to more intensely control the most remote stretches of the Southwest border, the un-monitored border will become an even more distant memory. Clandestine human movement will be discovered less through formal checkpoints and more through distributed networks of mobile, responsive patrols, hyper-managed by a constellation of federal, local, and private actors and technologies.

At Boquillas and a dwindling number of other crossings maintaining an informal atmosphere, generational customs survive by striking opportunistic alliances with emerging security officials and technologies.

The Boquillas crossing can be seen as an experiment in “unmanning” the border, a retreat from generations of border security dependent on human, face-to-face contact in dedicated brick-and-mortar facilities as an essential fail-safe to controlling cross-border migration. As sensing capability improves, buoyed by biometrics, unmanned vehicles, and surveillance technology, we can imagine these encounters of authentication and enforcement taking place even further afield, rendering physical installations and human actors unnecessary.

New photos show border wall prototypes under construction

On Tuesday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) tweeted images of the border wall prototypes in California that showed a wall ideation well underway. CBP unveiled plans for the prototyping phase back in September. The new images, taken near the San Diego–Tijuana border, show construction cranes lifting 30-foot-tall concrete slabs. The panels are one of eight wall prototypes that are set to be built and tested. Though all will be between 18 and 30 feet high, four of the walls will be concrete and the rest will be built with other materials. The work reflects President Trump's campaign promise to build a wall on the boundary between the U.S and Mexico to, in CBP's word's, "deter illegal crossings." "We are committed to securing our borders, and that includes constructing border walls. Our multi-pronged strategy to ensure the safety and security of the American people includes barriers, infrastructure, technology and people," said Ronald Vitiello, CBP acting deputy commissioner, in a September press release that announced prototype construction. “Moving forward with the prototypes enables us to continue to incorporate all the tools necessary to secure our border." Last month it was revealed that three of the six firms selected to build the prototypes had previously defrauded the government. Despite the project's contentiousness, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported no protests yesterday. The Architect's Newspaper (AN) is committed to regular, rigorous coverage of the border wall and the controversy that surrounds it. To that end, AN has partnered with El Paso, Texas–based AGENCY to bring readers Border Dispatches, "an on-the-ground perspective from the United States-Mexico border." Each month, the series explores a critical site or person shaping the mutable binational territory between the two neighboring countries. For more news, opinion, and information on the border wall, visit archpaper.com/tag/border-wall.

Growing private detention industry threatens immigrants’ rights on the U.S.-Mexico border

The collision of private law enforcement and privately managed immigration enforcement at sites of detention is dramatically altering the landscape of migrant processing and justice—largely to the disadvantage of the detainee.

On Jan 25, President Trump issued an executive order, which, in addition to mandating the well-known “border wall,” directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to “immediately construct […] facilities to detain aliens at or near the land border with Mexico,” to support increased deportations of undocumented migrants. An internal memo circulated by the administration in April called for nearly double the existing detention capacity to accommodate 80,000 detainees on any given day. Twenty-seven new locations had been scouted; 21,000 beds had already been found. With such rapid growth, decisions privilege expediency and cost over the quality of services and care for detainees.

It is highly likely that the new federal detention capacity will be met in partnership with private prison companies. Currently, 65 percent of detainees in the U.S. migrant detention system stay in private facilities run by companies (commonly for-profit) that contract with the federal government. Both commercial contractors and government vendors contributed to the search for detention spaces outlined in the April memo.

The same criticisms that apply to the private prison industry, and which led the Department of Justice (DOJ) to mandate an end to its use in August of 2016, apply to the burgeoning private detention industry. A 2009 report from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) noted that a majority of migrant detention facilities were initially built for use as prisons, and that these structures impose more restrictions than necessary for the detainees. The shared typological features between prisons and detention centers flatten the important differences between criminal sentencing and migrant detention. Where the two intermingle, the distinction between legal and extralegal, private and federal, detention and incarceration is dangerously elusive.

One of the largest private detention facilities in the U.S. is the Otero County Processing Center (OCPC) in Chaparral, New Mexico. The center is part of a 15-acre site that includes the Otero County Prison Facility, which first partnered with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to hold detainees awaiting rulings in 2003. Residents of Otero County reportedly “liked the business [of migrant detention at the prison facility]—a half dollar a day per immigrant” and agreed to expand the practice, supporting the construction of a dedicated ICE detention facility, the OCPC, right next door, in 2008. Both the prison and the detention facility are operated by Management and Training Corporation (MTC), one of the nation’s largest private corrections companies.

In its early years, the OCPC was known in immigration advocacy circles as “The Hub,” due to the number of detainees who were transferred to the secluded site for processing from out-of-state. This transfer practice reportedly limits detainees’ access to community support and legal assistance otherwise available at the location of their arrest, and places them in jurisdictions known to hand down less favorable rulings.

The architecture of the OCPC clouds important distinctions between immigrant detainee and convicted prisoner to preemptively deny justice and erode the humanity of migrants.

When we visited the OCPC in June 2016, MTC employees emphasized that the center’s architecture is designed to maximize processing efficiency and prevent escape, not unlike a prison. In their language, spaces of intake manage “bodies”—not people. Walls that once ended in drop ceilings have been extended to seal completely to the roof, after speculation that a detainee could access the ceiling cavity.

Much of the staff’s experience is in criminal justice; many have spent time as correctional officers or administrators in jails and prisons before stints at the center. The distinction between civil and criminal immigration violations does not register in our discussions; staff mistakenly refers to detainees as “inmates.” The boundary between incarceration and detention on-site is fluid. The prison next door is used as a failsafe overflow center during overcrowding and operational malfunctions. When beds fill at OCPC, or the kitchen power fails, detainees are sent for up to 72 hours to the federal prison.

Other flattening abstractions permeate the space. Detainees wear color-coded uniforms, which provide a glimpse into their histories with the detention complex. Blue suits are for first-time non-violent immigration law offenders, mostly those picked up after walking across the U.S.-Mexico land border. Repeat offenders wear orange; those with violent or extensive criminal histories wear red. The center staff tells us they prefer dealing with the red population. Ironically, they are easier to manage; their criminal history is seen as an asset. Having spent time in jail, the regulated routine in the center is familiar territory, and they are more likely to comply with orders. To the detainees, as to the guards, it is all part of the same system.

Detention facilities like OCPC are specializing, taking on new roles. Our visit to the OCPC was just after a major transformation: Instead of providing long-term housing for detainees awaiting decisions on their cases, the processing center was converted into a last stop for detainees before deportation. Why? In 2015, DHS issued a report criticizing ICE transfer and deportation practices for presumed inefficiencies. ICE Air Operations (IAO), a shadow network of commercial and chartered flights that shuttles detainees domestically, had not been filling its seats. This report is likely the impetus for shifting strategy in Otero, which has become an overblown departure gate for deportation flights out of El Paso, Texas. When we visited, the typical stay at the OCPC is a mere two weeks, the daily operations consumed by the logistics of travel arrangements, rather than providing legal services and care for those detained. A chart in the offices maps out which detainees have been assigned seats on the three scheduled flights for the week, each filled to their 136-seat capacity.

Sites like Otero continue to contort themselves under changing directives, becoming autonomous islands, one-stop-shops for migrant processing and deportation. A DOJ directive began temporarily relocating federal judges to borderland detention facilities in March in an effort to speed deportation, further exacerbating questions of whether due process is respected in such off-grid locales with limited oversight. Existing teleconferencing rooms have since been repurposed to makeshift courts, while new courtroom space has been added to the OCPC. The wholesale restructuring of the space of migrant justice is just beginning. The construction of pop-up “port courts” is now proposed at ports of entry.

As the OCPC settles into its next-generation of use, it is consolidating even more security functions. Plans are underway to build a shooting range on site to support training for the detention center and prison staff. Guards will no longer need to go off-site to nearby Fort Bliss, thanks to a “bullet catcher” berm encircling the range. In December, DHS reported that private detention facilities—despite continued “documented occurrences of deficiencies and abuse”—will continue to be necessary for the foreseeable future. As a stopgap, the agency suggested positioning ICE wardens at private centers to provide federal oversight and accountability.

As the sites accelerate their transformations from isolated anomalies to quasi-urban, self-sufficient nuclei of privatized federal detention, we call for immigrant advocates and legal service providers to co-opt the logic of their shadow system of airfields, courts, and fly-in judges, grafting a parallel network supporting migrant advocacy on this nascent infrastructure.

Inside the Border Patrol Academy’s New Mexico facility, where training and real operations can blur

This is the first in a series of reports from El Paso, Texas–based AGENCY, entitled Border Dispatches, an on-the-ground perspective from the United States-Mexico border. Each month, we will explore another “sleeper agent,” a critical site or actor reshaping the diffuse, overlapping binational territory we know as the borderlands.

Over the last decade, our changing national security priorities have contorted federal law-enforcement training sites to respond to new and sometimes contradictory demands. In Artesia, New Mexico, several replicas simulating different areas of the International Border Fence (IBF) are built on the site of the Border Patrol Academy (BPA). The “mock fences” are a minor but instructive example of the material residue created by our nation’s ongoing obsession with the promotion and maintenance of a physical international boundary, a hard line separating the U.S. from Mexico. A close reading of the fences, and the training installation of which they are a part, reveals volumes about the shifting whims of the securocratic territory they both describe and inhabit.

The BPA is on the site of the Artesia Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), one of four national training centers that serve 95 federal partner organizations as well as thousands of other local and international security forces. The site has specialized in providing unique training environments not available elsewhere, including drug and fingerprint labs, and all-terrain vehicle courses. After the 9/11 terror attacks, the site began hoarding grounded jetliners to train air marshals in counterterrorism operations. The site was a good fit for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), capable of supporting both its “priority mission” (counterterrorism) and “primary mission” (preventing illegal entry to the U.S.). The real physical environment of Artesia, and the otherwise-remote site’s particular coincidence with the logistical networks of the CBP, was recast as an invaluable training asset.

In 2004, The FLETC Artesia site was selected as the location for a newly reconsolidated BPA, due to its strategic location near a focus of CBP activity—near hot spots for the eventual assignment of academy graduates—as well as the region’s signature climate and terrain. Artesia lies just four hours from the Southwest border. While seemingly distant from border operations, it is strategically close enough. Many of the geological and ecological features of the site are shared with a large percentage of the territory agents are charged to protect. It is here that the agents rehearse known threats and prepare for new ones, the simulations scripting a generation of borderland encounters to come.

Upon arrival, trainees are issued a fake sidearm, to become accustomed to the relentless presence, bulk, and weight of the weapon. Classes are led by retired USBP agents, and use a technique called scenario-based training (SBT). Training takes place mostly in situ, informed by the simulated physical constructs throughout the site and the desert terrain itself. Simulated checkpoints, barns, and inspection areas for railcars and vehicles are scattered throughout the center to host scripted encounters. In addition to physical training, the center uses Spanish-speaking role players, playing a range of border-crosser types, from harmless asylum-seekers to armed smugglers. Classes are taught in high-risk Spanish terminology.

According to FLETC documents, in 2013 $1.2 million was dedicated to “add realistic fencing and check stations to enhance border patrol training venues” at Artesia. Since 2014, training exercises have included engagements with a “towering, steel” mock IBF that “realistically simulates the field environment.” Six different mock-IBF sites were planned that year, mimicking the various construction materials deployed in the constructed border throughout its length. Each mock fence was to measure 90 feet long, “and will vary in height from 19 feet to 10 feet,” according to the documents. “The materials will mirror what is used on the international border, to include bollard fencing, as well as fencing constructed from landing mat materials.” The staged constructions create backdrops for scenarios culled from the experience of actual agents in the field, including “when assailants are throwing rocks or other projectiles, or subjects are using vehicles as a weapon against the agents near the IBF.” Only four such mock IBFs are advertised as available for training on the FLETC website currently.

In recent years the Artesia FLETC has further blurred the boundary between real and imagined operations when its collection of novice trainees and academic exercises would play host to the endgame of the agency’s ultimate objective—migrant detention. While it appears a simulated detention facility was completed in 2010 for training purposes, a real-world detention center would soon emerge on-site. The training venue proved an expedient solution for federal law enforcement in 2014 when an influx of Central American migrants filled other nearby detention sites. A temporary detention center, holding as many as 672 detainees at one time, was built, conflating the space of border-patrol simulation with the reality of its impact. Ten acres of the site, including existing dorms and classrooms, were converted to serve as medical centers and processing centers, among other uses. Attorneys visiting the site noted the strange proximity of the training simulacra around the detainees’ temporary home. News reports show cribs for child detainees lining the interior hallways of the FLETC trainee barracks.

While residents of Artesia have often shown support for the training operations, and the positive economic impacts trainees bring to town, the reality of detention on-site proved to stress the relationship. Residents, in an echo of the paranoia surrounding the crossing of the IBF, expressed concern about the hastily constructed perimeter security at the facility, noting the ease with which the eight-foot chain-link fence might be crossed by a determined detainee. The temporary facility was closed at the end of 2014. The future of the site, and the blurring of the boundary between real and imagined conflict, remains uncertain. Asked in 2016 by the Roswell Daily News whether the FLETC would ever be used again as a detention site, Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) reportedly answered that chances are “slim right now…but you never know.”

The current administration’s charge of building a border wall requires built mock-ups of the proposed designs in Otay Mesa near the Mexican border. In a way, the practice of sampling potential walls resonates with the sampling of border parts at the BPA, reinforcing a kind of thinking about the boundary as merely a collection of obstructive infrastructural parts devoid of the real-life consequences of blockage and armament. As the duties and performance criteria of the IBF expand to deter and collect more bodies, shifting tactics are indexed and foreshadowed in the space of training.

The Architecture Lobby calls to resist Trump’s border wall project

The Architecture Lobbyan organization that advocates for architectural workers and for the value of architecture in the general publichas issued a call to for architects to resist the Department of Homeland Security’s recent presolicitation announcement pertaining to the proposed United States-Mexico border wall project. The group is advocating for architects and engineers to participate in a day of action aimed at showing opposition to the project that, the organization contends, exploits the labor or architects and designers “in the service of xenophobia, discrimination, and racism.” So far more than 300 firms have expressed interest in DHS’s pre-solicitation. DHS posted a second call after the RFP was issued last week as Trump's xenophobic campaign steps closer to built validation. The controversial project, a promise which was at the crux of Trump's campaign, could supposedly cost U.S. taxpayers $15 billion to $40 billion—or as Carolina Miranda of the LA Times puts it, "101 to 270 times the annual budget for the National Endowment for the Arts." Architecture and engineering firm Leo A Daly was one of the biggest names on the Federal Business Opportunities' (FBO) preliminary solicitation vendors list, as of Monday, however, since the listing was publicized, its name can now no longer be found there. The Architect's Newspaper today (3/6) learned that Leo A Daly's inclusion on the FBO's vendors list was accidental. A marketing spokesperson for the firm stated while the firm does do security work (such as the Anzalduas Port of Entry in Texas), the listing on the FBO's website was a mistake. Leo A Daly is not interested in working on the U.S.-Mexico border wall project.  Meanwhile, concrete construction firm LafargeHolcim can now be found on the list. The Swiss-French company is America's top cement producer and is primed to rake in a hefty reward if and when Trump's wall goes ahead. The company is also involved in further controversy in the Middle East having recently admitted to "unacceptable" activity in Syra as it paid third parties for help with armed groups around a plant.  New York firm Victoria Benatar ARCHITECT PLLC is also listed as an interested vendor on the FBO. The Architecture Lobby’s call follows. For more information, see the Architecture Lobby website.
WE WON’T DESIGN YOUR WALL A Day of Action by Architects and Engineers March 10th, 2017 – 4pm EST http://architecture-lobby.org/project/notourwall The Architecture Lobby, an organization of architectural workers, calls for a national day of action in opposition to the building of the southwestern border wall proposed by the Trump administration and the Department of Homeland Security. While there are innumerable reasons to stand against the immigration policies of the current administration and this project specifically, this call is motivated by the belief that the fields of architecture, and engineering are fundamentally rooted in a goal to improve our societies by producing structures that render them more just, more equitable, and more beautiful. The southwestern border wall stands in clear and direct opposition to this goal. By participating in this day of action, architects and engineers will make clear not only to the current and future administrations, but also to themselves and each other, that their agency will not be exploited in the service of xenophobia, discrimination, and racism.
The Request for Proposals These concerns have taken on a renewed urgency. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for southwestern border wall (SBW) prototypes to begin the bidding phase of new border wall construction. The proposal is lightning-fast, with the first round of submissions due on March 10th followed by a full proposal from those shortlisted due on March 24th. A design team for the SBW will be selected by mid-April. The DHS site has made public a list of interested vendors that might be good targets for organizing, although we believe most of them to be subcontractors looking to get work after the project has been awarded, and that the largest companies pursuing the project have not listed themselves. A Time to Act We are calling for a 45 minute united action for architects and engineers to leave their desks and walk out to demonstrate our power to withhold our individual agency. The goal of this Day of Action is to encourage a grassroots resistance to this project from and within architecture and engineering companies across the country, coinciding with the closure of the first round of RFPs for the DHS SBW. Additionally we have listed some suggestions and tips on a second page for possible further actions. Take the fight to who you can, where you can, how you can. Share a picture of your empty desks and protest using the hashtag #NotOurWall It Doesn’t Stop There After the Day of Action, we want to hear back. What were the successes, failures, and potential paths forward for us from here? Send reports, photos, statements of support and boycott as a firm or as an individual, and summaries to notourwall@architecture-lobby.org. Note if you would like to anonymize your information or altogether refrain from posting it publicly. We’ll publicize the information on our website. This the first of many steps toward building the solidarity that will make it possible to organize actions against whichever companies make the shortlist after the 10th and are awarded the bid in April.

ADPSR is calling all designers to submit protest proposals for Trump’s border wall

In the wake of the Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) request for proposals for a U.S./Mexico border wall, design advocacy group Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR) says it doesn't accept the project and has issued a call for architects, designers, and contractors to "add their voices in opposition."

In doing so, the ADPSR has called for those within the industry to submit protest bids to the federal bidding portal, and gear up for legal challenges to the bidding process. Protests will be published online to demonstrate that the profession, in its view, does "not accept the basic premises" of the CBP's RFP. Adding submissions to the federal portal will place your protest on the record, the group said.

The ADPSR issued the following statement in conjunction with their call to action:

Our professions are committed to protecting public health, safety, and welfare, so we are fundamentally at odds with any project that intends to divide, demean, and injure people on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

This project will undermine peaceful international relations between the U.S. and Mexico, and demonstrate a profound mistrust and aversion towards the rest of the world. Professional design practice and human relations are increasingly global. As decent national and world citizens, American designers and contractors must not participate in an ill-conceived and hostile gesture towards the rest of the world.

We must also take stock of the frequent deaths of would-be migrants in the deserts of the border area. This proposed wall, by making the border even more inaccessible, will increase the number of deaths: an outcome that is completely unacceptable and flies in the face of professional ethics and human rights. Designers can not ethically undertake projects that will kill people or cause harm.

This project is completely unnecessary and hugely wasteful.  We must not be scared by the rhetoric of a “lawless” border; in fact, through many successful projects such as Land Ports of Entry, designers and builders have made the U.S. border more welcoming, efficient, and well-controlled. The idea that people from Mexico and Central America crossing remote borders on foot pose a significant public safety threat or are stealing jobs is not supported by evidence.. Participation in the border wall project indicates acceptance of a worldview that smacks of ignorance and racism.

The Department of Homeland Security estimates the wall will cost $21.6 billion dollars. Instead, the billions of dollars proposed here should be used to sustain the infrastructure truly essential to public health, safety, and welfare that has been neglected for far too long. From public schools and community parks to dangerously unreinforced dams and bridges, or addressing the pressing concerns of climate change on coastal cities, or the housing crisis sweeping much of our nation, this funding should be used to connect our communities, not divide them...

We will do not collaborate with hate, racism, fear, or/and violence. We demand investment for the public good!

For those who need help submitting a protest border wall, the ADPSR invites interested parties to send proposals to be submitted via the organization. Files should be .PDF documents and addressed to: borderwall (at) adpsr (dot) org. The group asks to be CC'd on all submissions.

The ADPSR also offers some advice on submissions:

Take time to review the insanely short proposed schedule and identify how this might obstruct a realistic bid that you as a designer might want to submit. Consider submitting a bid to hold a place for this future protest. Review the forthcoming RFP for inaccuracies, biased statements, or anti-competitive features and share these with us at borderwall (at) adpsr (dot) org. We will do our best to raise legal challenges as the process proceeds.

Submissions to the federal bidding portal are due March 31.

UPDATES: AIA pledges to work with Donald Trump, membership recoils. UPDATE: Robert Ivy issues second apology for tone-deaf post-election memo UPDATE: Robert Ivy, executive vice president and CEO of the AIA, responds to post-election memo criticism.

Department of Homeland Security to accept bids for US-Mexico border wall

For architects still eager to “stand ready” with President Donald Trump’s pledge to build new works of infrastructure, here’s your chance: The United States Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection office has issued a preliminary “solicitation” for proposals to build the president’s controversial border wall between the United States and Mexico. The solicitation, posted to the Federal Business Opportunities website on February 24th, states the following:
The Dept. of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) intends on issuing a solicitation in electronic format on or about March 6, 2017 for the design and build of several prototype wall structures in the vicinity of the United States border with Mexico. The procurement will be conducted in two phases, the first requiring vendors to submit a concept paper of their prototype(s) by March 10, 2017, which will result in the evaluation and down select of offerors by March 20, 2017.  The second phase will require the down select of phase 1 offerors to submit proposals in response to the full RFP by March 24, 2017, which will include price. Multiple awards are contemplated by mid-April for this effort. An option for additional miles may be included in each contract award.
The solicitation was issued the same day the president, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Congress’s (CPAC) annual forum, mentioned that progress on the wall was, “way, way, way ahead of schedule” and just two weeks after the administration began a heavy-handed crackdown on undocumented immigrants in the country. As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump fueled his candidacy with strikingly anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric, promising to forcibly deport the roughly 12 million undocumented immigrants who currently live in the country. It seems now that President Trump, having botched the rollout of the administration’s travel ban against seven predominantly Muslim countries, is turning his attention to immigrants in this country to fulfill those campaign promises. The new focus will surely reinvigorate debate within the architectural profession regarding individuals’ and organizations’ kowtowing embrace of these so-called infrastructural projects. Following the travel ban hullabaloo, the American Institute of Architects issued a statement in support of immigration and international travel. The organization remains silent, however, on the issue of the proposed border wall and on the various other building-related issues the administration is currently pursuing, like increased use of private prisons for federal detentions, including deportation actions. Media reports have indicated that the private prison industry is looking to profit handsomely from recently relaxed regulations against such facilities under the new Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Their use is set to expand vastly under a directive issued that instructs the CBP to expand its detention capabilities from a capacity of roughly 34,000 detainees today to upwards of 80,000 detainees in the near future. Monetary costs for the border wall vary widely, from between $12 to $15 billion according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The CBP recently issued an internal memo pegging the wall’s cost at closer to $21.5-billion. Whatever the cost, the lack of leadership and activism on the part of professional building trade organizations is palpable. UPDATES: AIA pledges to work with Donald Trump, membership recoils. UPDATE: Robert Ivy issues second apology for tone-deaf post-election memo UPDATE: Robert Ivy, executive vice president and CEO of the AIA, responds to post-election memo criticism.

Enter this competition to design a wall separating Donald Trump from the United States

Adding to the debate revolving around Donald J. Trump’s problematic campaign pledge to install a wall along the US-Mexico border, Reality Cues, an internet-based competition organizer, has announced a charrette aimed at designing a different kind of wall. Good Walls Make Good Neighbors, Mr. Trump asks entrants to simultaneously combine the candidate’s love for bad architecture with his penchant for fortifications. Instead of calling into question the politics, logic, morality, or economics of Trump’s proposal, Reality Cues invites contestants to instead design a wall separating Trump from the rest of the United States. A brief posted to the Reality Cues website includes a collection of images depicting Trump’s private airplane, the Manhattan, Chicago, and Las Vegas locations of Trump Tower, and the Trump National Golf Course, and requires their use in submitted proposals. The brief cites the psychological power of calling for a divisive wall in an era of uncertainty; the competition asks entrants to translate their own angst as they manipulate Trump’s architectures. The brief's provocation is a simple one: “redefine the architectural content (in the provided photographs) or insert architecture of your own to separate it from the rest of the country.” The competition format follows those of earlier briefs deployed by the self-described “public experiment in communication and design” group which aimed to generate ideas around the notion of “Eco-Porn,” a nude photograph of Le Corbusier, and a set of stock internet images. The group, headed by an activist named Archistophanes, aims to “press architects to explore and question the techniques and conventions or tropes upon which (they) rely to communicate ideas concerning space, form, and use.” Regarding the intentions behind the competiton, Archistophanes told The Architect's Newspaper, "The charrette proposal is meant to be a nod to Trump's 'eye for an eye,' reactionary style of responding to criticism. In this vein, I felt it only natural that a bookend to his absurd proposal for The Wall is an equal and opposite wall proposal: between him and everyone else." "I'm more interested in the wall itself and how it represents division and isolationism," he continued. "The charrette is political, no doubt, but how this plays out architecturally will be the revealing aspect of the exercise." A  jury posted to the competition website includes a variety of design and urbanism journalists as well as several designers and architects. For more information on Good Walls Make Good Neighbors, Mr. Trump, see the Reality Cues website. Competition entries are due September 8, 2016, with winners announced a month later.