//* {U.S. Mexico Borderwall as
Architecture} ::
{2008.12.21 ~ Studio : Professor Ronald Rael}

“The true issue involves harnessing the political willpower to involve an educated community in the determination of its future and its economy.”

~ Marras, Amerigo. Hybrids, Fusions, and Architecture of the In-Between.

Pneu Border Proposal :: Us/Mexico Border as Architecture ::
Professor Ronald Rael
This proposal is a pneumatic border wall that primarily resides along the political border in the lower Rio Bravo/Grande valley, eliminating the controversies and land division created by the separation of the political and security boundaries. The pneumatic wall creates a series of volumes which float along the Rio, which can be programmed by the adjacent communities in a variety of ways which could benefit from either close bi-national contact or adjacency, or from being in an international zone or interstitial space between countries. The wall itself is primarily two parallel tube sections which vary in section based upon programmatic needs or river morphology, with virtual-wall infrastructure in between which could potentially identify migrants as they cross the political border, for various purposes. The project aspires to encourage bi-national development, and cultivate cross-cultural contact and coordination in border towns and cities along and aside the Rio Grande/Bravo, which most have largely turned their backs to. I am providing a system, a skeleton or carapace, to yes the Department of Homeland Security, but also to the communities in border regions along the river.

This investigation began with an interest in researching migrant death along the border, which identified two primary sites where this occurs- death by drowning along the Rio Grande/bravo, and hyperthermia in the frontier conditions of Arizona and New Mexico - too much water, or too little. Death however was just a by-product of a myriad of larger issues, which can be considered human ecology- the social, political, economic, and cultural environments in addition to a more environmental ecology. Aspiring to address some of these larger issues in addition to death along the border I began by looking at the river, as it forms nearly 65% of the nearly 2000 mile border, and the avulsions over time that have made what could be considered a “living border” - defining areas which have been both united states and Mexico for some period of time, and what could be considered a general sort-of international riparian zone.

The project is anchored and accessed by a series of bridges which are built as the communities or governments desire to occupy the provided international spaces on the river [however discontinuous - divided by security gates and the virtual wall along the political border], and pneumatic pressure in conjunction with a to-be-designed vertebrae controls the shape of the inflatable where the bridges cannot to follow the river. in addition to a rather static condition along the river, the existing riparian zones - historically disputed lands or otherwise discarded spaces - can be developed in a variety of earthworks and landscape projects which can be shared bi-nationally with the intentional and controlled shift of the security border from the political border- moving the pneu border in a sort-of mimicry of the river avulsions.

The intermittent bridges serve as access and a track system to pull the pneu border over land, defining new bi-national or shared cultural riparian zones. The border wall can illuminate to serve these spaces at night and become a surface for projection, and the additional earthwork and landscapes could become anything from in-ground theatres and sports-fields to migrant potters fields. Optimistically when the wall is taken down {or deflated}, what is left in concrete are bridges and public spaces along the rivers edge.

The wall itself will be a series of individual pneumatic chambers. The pressure cavity is within the wall system, a double skin system that operates to modulate surface area by “poofiness,” which morphes the form based upon necessary length and shape dictated by the river morphology or shifting across the riparian zones. This renders the interior spaces neutral in pneumatic pressure, and the floor and wall systems expand and contract as the length and shape of the border wall shift. Various opacity, thicknesses, gradations, and unit modulations could be explored in further tectonic pursuits. I hope the section of these tubes can vary in a big way over the length of the borderwall, and various formal typologies could be created to address the programs housed within - {i.e. “nave” section, “aviary” section, “office” section etc.} Aperture and penetration, rigidification etc. could also use further consideration and exploration in this pursuit.