With the passage of the Secure Fence Act in 2006, the U.S. Congress authorized funding for what has become the largest domestic construction project in twenty-first century America. The result? Approximately 700 miles of fencing, barricades, and walls comprised of newly built and repurposed materials, strategically placed along the 1,954-mile international border between the United Mexican States and the United States of America. At an initial cost of $3.4 billion, the most current estimates predict that the expense of maintaining the existing wall will exceed $49 billion by 2032. Envisioned solely as a piece of security infrastructure—with minimal input from architects and designers—the existing barrier has also levied a heavy toll on the lives of individuals, communities, municipalities, and the surrounding environment. In Borderwall as Architecture: A Manifesto for the U.S.-Mexico Boundary
(UC Press, 2017),
Professor Ronald Rael
proposes a series of architectural designs that advocate for the transformation of the existing 700-mile-wall into a piece of civic infrastructure that makes positive contributions to the social, cultural, and ecological landscapes of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. As both a muse and act of political protest, Rael’s designs challenge us to question the efficacy of the current barrier, while simultaneously stoking our imagination concerning its future.
David-James Gonzales (DJ) is Assistant Professor of History at Brigham Young University. He is a historian of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands, the development of multi-ethnic/racial cities, and the evolution of Latina/o identity and politics. His research centers on the relationship between Latina/o politics and the metropolitan development of Orange County, CA throughout the 20th century. You may follow him on Twitter @djgonzoPhD.