The border that connects the United States and Mexico is also what divides them.
This week, Ronald Rael, an architect at the University of California at Berkeley, announced what he hopes will unite both sides through sustainability and interaction.
The proposal, known as “Border Wall as Architecture,” suggests opening the border wall to possibility, inviting the exchange of culture and commerce through about 20 different amendments in design.
Among them, the border would add a lending library, confessionals, a water collection system, a wastewater treatment plant, a solar energy farm and a “burrito wall,” which would entail a food cart at which people from both sides of the border could share a meal and connect.
The Rael San Fratello Architects, an Oakland-based team led by Rael and partner Virginia San Fratello, created the proposal, which Rael says could transform the border barrier.
“The fence no longer becomes a fence,” Rael said. “The fence becomes something else. And once it becomes something else, then we’ve done our jobs as architects. We have torn down the fence, not the structure itself, but we’ve dismantled the idea of it.
“They’re enjoying a meal, and the fence no longer exists. In a sense, we’re taking it down through design.”
The proposal is still in its early phases, but Rael believes the idea could improve border security.
He said the added presence of people interacting at the border would deter illegal border crossings in those areas.
The plan also offers a system of water catchment basins and rainwater collection shed roofs at a wall beside the Rio Grande River, protecting surrounding cities from flooding and further discouraging border crossing.
All the while, border security would still guard the wall, which Rael characterizes as currently a paradox of failed potential.
"Horrifically potent with possibilities. Terrifically beautiful," Rael said. "It’s amazing in a terrible way. If we harness the potential of this giant, this monster, it could be something fantastic."