Borderwall as Architecture is an artistic and intellectual hand grenade of a book, and a timely re-examination of what the physical barrier that divides the United States of America from the United Mexican States is and could be. It is both a protest against the wall and a projection about its future. Through a series of propositions suggesting that the nearly seven hundred miles of wall is an opportunity for economic and social development along the border that encourages its conceptual and physical dismantling, the book takes readers on a journey along a wall that cuts through a “third nation”—the Divided States of America. On the way the transformative effects of the wall on people, animals, and the natural and built landscape are exposed and interrogated through the story of people who, on both sides of the border, transform the wall, challenging its existence in remarkably creative ways. Coupled with these real-life accounts are counterproposals for the wall, created by Rael’s studio, that reimagine, hyperbolize, or question the wall and its construction, cost, performance, and meaning. Rael proposes that despite the intended use of the wall, which is to keep people out and away, the wall is instead an attractor, engaging both sides in a common dialogue. Included is a collection of reflections on the wall and its consequences by leading experts Michael Dear, Norma Iglesias-Prieto, Marcello Di Cintio, and Teddy Cruz.
Ronald Rael is Associate Professor in the departments of Architecture and Art Practice at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Earth Architecture, a history of building with earth in the modern era that exemplifies new, creative uses of the oldest building material on the planet. The Museum of Modern Art and the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum have recognized his work, and in 2014 his creative practice, Rael San Fratello, was named an Emerging Voice by the Architectural League of New York.
"Part historical account, part theoretical appraisal, and part design manifesto, Borderwall as Architecture is reminiscent of Rem Koolhaas’ Delirious New York in its sweeping assessment of both the sociocultural peculiarities and outlandish possibilities represented by a prominent structural element."—Blaine Brownell Architect Magazine
"...in raising questions that not many others are asking about the relationship between two countries that share 2,000 miles of border, his book serves an important purpose."—The Daily Beast
"...the proposals ...attempting to transform the boundary into something more than just an obstruction, are provocative and inventive."—Architectural Record
"Rael’s courageous mixture of subversion and compromise is not going to hide the affront that the border represents to those who live south of it."—London Review of Books
"While border walls and separation now seem inevitable, Rael’s subversive designs seem to indicate a way forward: They allow us to cope with the current moment by preparing for a less segregated future."—World Policy Journal
"Rael sees endless opportunities for creative defiance as he exposes the wall’s xenophobic horror stories, absurdities and ironies by imagining design as both an undermining and reparative measure... [his proposals] force us to re-examine the feasibility of constructing “a big beautiful wall” around fortress America by underscoring that borders are innate zones of connectivity as much as division." —New York Journal of Books
“A fascinating book, astonishing and magical: a realm where the absurdity of a wall is transformed from obstructive and negative to an affirmation of shared humanity.”—Judith Torrea, journalist and author based in Ciudad Juárez, México
"Timely and provocative, Borderwall as Architecture
is an eloquent appeal to reconsider the principles and prejudices of nationalism within the context of the built environment."—Jonathon Keats, experimental philosopher and author of You Belong to the Universe: Buckminster Fuller and the Future
“No longer sovereign limits of exchange, borders are at once indexes of national as well as individual identities. Borderwall as Architecture
interrogates how the the securitization of the United States' southernmost limits radically define new landscapes of transaction that can also be visualized as a tool of violence. Among Ronald Rael's elegant ironies seen across anticipatory yet moving drawings and projects, the Mexico-US border fence/wall registers a figurative logic in which seemingly banal aspects of porosity, transparency, and locality also confront architecture's and our own roles in two nations' un-becoming.”—Sean Anderson, Curator, Architecture and Design, MOMA