LocationFabens, TX, United States
Architect in ChargeDavid Richter, FAIA; Elizabeth Chu Richter, FAIA; Stephen Cox, AIA
Structural & CivilWalter P. Moore-Structural Engineers
MEPGoetting And Associates - Mep Engineers
LandscapeDoug Wade Landscape Architect
Security ConsultantKroll Schiff-Security Consultant And Engineering
Cost ConsultantProject Cost Resources, Inc.
Fire Protection ConsultantPoole Fire Protection
Text description provided by the architects. From the days of the Spanish Missions, the waters of the Rio Grande downstream of El Paso have been harvested by flood irrigation to create rich farmland from the harsh Chihuahuan desert. Over centuries a Nile-like green swath has grown to extend more than fifty miles to the southeast of El Paso / Juarez bi-national metropolis. In the middle of this artificial but productive eco-zone, this new LEED Gold Port of Entry returns 117 acres of this farmland back to its desert origins. The irrigation water that greens productive fields all around the site is too precious to support landscape for imagery or momentary respite. The water-conscious design creates a vest-pocket desert micro-ecology within the immediate region’s green agricultural context, which in turn resides within a vast desert that reaches for hundreds of miles into both Mexico and the US. This dichotomy, layering and sequential experience of passage - born of water and its scarcity - inspires the spirit of place at the Tornillo Port of Entry.
Programmatic goals include:
• Design expressive of cultural context and American values
• Security and safety for visitors and port officers
• Environmentally sustainable design
• Clarity, order and efficiency in port inspection activities
• Efficient multi modal circulation through the site to reduce wait time
• Orderly future expansion for all elements of inspection and visitor processing
Inspection and processing buildings are arrayed along an east/west axis for beneficial orientation and to create a narrow green belt along the line of passage - metaphorical to the macro context and creating order to often chaotic traffic patterns. High technology ubiquitous to border screening is incorporated as visual elements of place. With the technology appropriated as part of the architectural language, the design becomes more energetic, relevant, flexible and adaptable to the change.
The performance-inspired precast roof canopy panels are the color of the dusty desert soil and are designed to incorporate inspection technology, convective ventilation, daylighting and non-disruptive expansion potential via modularity.
The Tornillo US Port of Entry is intended to clarify and heighten the desirable qualities of passage and arrival in support of a welcoming and meaningful international border-crossing experience. It raises awareness of the local ecological context in a rapidly expanding metropolitan region, engages local historical culture, maintains flexibility for evolving technology and addresses the challenges of scale, order, and security inherent to a major Port of Entry.