Caleb White
Architect
New York, New York, USA

Emily Gruendel
Architect
Philadelphia, Pennsylvannia, USA

PROJECT STATEMENT:

The recent proposal to construct a continuous border wall between the United States and Mexico raises forgotten yet critical questions about megastructures and their role.  The proposal evokes imagery of Superstudio’s Continuous Monument and other projects of the 1960’s and ‘70’s that take on such gigantic proportions that it is difficult to address the human scale.  Therefore, the Continuous Monument and many projects like it, remain diagrammatic and offer little in the way of architecture’s more social and humanistic intentions.  One notable exception is Paul Rudolph’s Manhattan Expressway proposal.  While criticized by many for its disregard for New York’s already rich street life, Rudolph’s proposal contained a multitude of urbanistic functions that were intended to address the variety of urban conditions that the megastructure would intersect.  Each section of the Manhattan Expressway would take on uniquely different functions depending on the immediate context.  These varied programmatic expressions directly inspired our project and how it addressed the challenge of a border wall.  

“Across” imagines an ironic reversal of function for a wall intending to combat illegal immigration.  The border wall need not be a stark and unfriendly separation of nations, but rather should be thought of as 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.  Walls usually represent the boundary or limits of a space, and often negate the ability of its surrounds to function as anything but a divide.  However, by allowing the border to engorge itself with these programs tailored to the needs of the site, the essential role of the wall is questioned.  This programmatically activated wall now becomes positive space and a beacon of activity for both sides.  The subsequent interactions that emerge between citizens of both countries would create a more unified community around the new shared resources and amenities.  In the long term, “Across” encourages cultural diffusion and crystalizes these nations together, rather than apart.