"Isn't it fascinating how this simple act of drawing a line on a map can transform the way we see and experience the world?" asks Ronald Rael in his December 2018 TED Talk. "And those lines on a map can create scars in the landscape and scars in our memories."
Ronald Rael, one half of the Berkeley CA based practice Rael San Fratello, has held a professional interest in borders (specifically the US-Mexico border) for quite some time. He's developed numerous projects in the region, describing them as architecture "natives" or "immigrants" in the course of his talk. But as Rael spent more time in the area, he became increasingly interested in the border as an architectural element itself. "Is the wall architecture?" he asks.
Perhaps, he says, but that's not the question architects should be interested in. Instead, they should be looking at the spaces (literal and figurative) that lie in between. Games such as volleyball (creatively renamed 'wall y ball') and baseball are already a presence along the border; in his talk Rael outlines a proposal to integrate these informal events formally within the structure of the wall. He shows a concept for a swing that allows people to become short-leash tourists until the moment that "gravity deports them to the other side." Another proposal shows how a version of the wall could be perforated to make room for a table - a place for thanksgiving and communal celebration.
Rael runs through a number of similar proposals over the course of his talk, all showing the absurdity inherent to the wall as a piece of architecture. Architecture, he argues, is most valuable when it emphasizes connection, not exclusion. Walls do not define distinct landscapes, but rather divide into two what was once one. He pushes it to its extreme, showing speculative plans for a house with its bed and dining room table divided by the wall. The example is not meant to suggest possible realities, but to emphasize the fact that the landscape of division cuts close to people's lives.