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Announcing the Winners


An International Design Competition to Re-conceptualize the U.S.-Mexico Border Wall

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Announcing the Winners


An International Design Competition to Re-conceptualize the U.S.-Mexico Border Wall

The “Build the Border Wall” competition has ended in a tie between two teams: One team consists of two international architecture students from the École Spéciale d’Architecture in Paris (Gautier Piechotta, who is French, and Wu Di, who is Chinese). The other is composed of students and designers (Charlottesville, VA designer Michelle Stein, graduate students from the University of Virginia Shannon Ruhl and Donna Ryu, and Honduran architectural designer Rosa Cristina Corrales Rodriguez). 

Two other prizes were also awarded. Second place went to DOXA, a team of New York-based architectural designers Wesley Thompson, Josie Baldner and Hiroshi Kaneko. And third place went to a pair of architects working in tandem: Caleb White in New York and Emily Gruendel in Philadelphia.

Each winner will receive a cash prize from the Third Mind Foundation, “started in 2015 by a group of architects, designers and artists to initiate thought-provoking and meaningful competitions that are of an interdisciplinary nature”: $5,000 to be split by the winners, $2,000 to second place and $1,000 to third place.

The announcement of the Competition sparked considerable controversy. Many assumed it endorsed then presidential candidate Donald Trump’s call to build a border wall to keep out illegal immigrants. Its purpose, however, was to elicit serious discussion about the very idea of a border wall. One of the questions proposed by the challenge: “Is the idea patently ridiculous on a purely practical and moral basis?” Entrants were invited to contemplate the deeper issues of a border wall and, indeed, even propose alternatives.

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First Prize


(This is one of two First Prize-winning concepts, in a tie.)

First Prize


(This is one of two First Prize-winning concepts, in a tie.)

Gautier Piechotta
Architecture student
Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture
Paris, France 

Wu Di, Chinese
Architecture student  
Ecole Spéciale d’Architecture
Paris, France

1st Prize (Tie)—Anticipating the eventual exhaustion of the essential resource of water along the U.S.-Mexico border, an “irrigation wall” would draw water from the Gulf of Mexico, the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean, desalinate it and flow it into a channel running the length of border. Possible benefits could include re-vegetation of the desert, creation of agricultural operations on either side of the channel and new bilateral treaty governing the distribution and use of the water between the two countries.

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First Prize


(This is one of two First Prize-winning concepts, in a tie.)

First Prize


(This is one of two First Prize-winning concepts, in a tie.)

Michelle Stein
Designer
Charlottesville, Virginia, USA

Shannon Ruhl
Graduate Student
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia, USA 

Donna Ryu
Graduate Student
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia, USA

Rosa Cristina Corrales Rodriguez
Architectural Designer
Choluteca, Honduras

1st Prize (Tie)—Rejecting the current wall as “a fetishized object,” Inflatoborder is a system of flexible bubbles that perform a variety of functions meant to bring communities on either side of the existing wall together. Air pressure is adjusted according to need—creating a canopy, for instance, that shelters roadside markets where it runs through agricultural lands, or creating “play area” enclosures for families and children in densely populated urban centers straddling the border.

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Second Prize


Second Prize


Wesley Thompson
Architectural Designer
Brooklyn, New York, USA

Josie Baldner
Architectural Designer
Brooklyn, New York, USA

Hiroshi Kaneko
Architectural Designer
Brooklyn, New York, USA

2nd Prize—Also rejecting the idea of a fixed wall that divides nations and people, this plan proposes a bi-national park running the length of the border that is “a symbol against difference” where people from both sides can camp, hike and engage in other outdoor activities.

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Third Prize


Third Prize


Caleb White
Architect
New York, New York, USA

Emily Gruendel
Architect
Philadelphia, Pennsylvannia, USA

3rd Prize—This proposal, called “Across,” was inspired by Paul Rudolph’s Manhattan Expressway and builds “on architecture’s more social and humanistic intentions” by creating “a flexible membrane which has the capacity to take on programs that are both needed and shared by the inhabitants on either side of the border.” 

Jury


Jury