Architecture Studio's Work Joins U.S.-Mexico Border Exhibition at Yale

Detailed gray, black, and white drawing of a wall separating a futuristic city and an impoverished scene
The border wall conceived by Black, Hübsch, and Zau in their group project Coalescence.
Two detailed engravings of sea-going ships in cross section floating on water with figures in the water and leaning over a wall
Two drawings from Yue (Maria) Ma's project American Dream or American Nightmare: 2020, 2050, 2070.
A book with an interleaved brown cover stamped with the word perception
Perception, Coalition by Isabella Hübsch and Christina Zau.
Long tables and a red brick wall displaying 20 architectural drawings and models
AAP student projects were also selected for the Arch Days CDMX exhibition Utopía: De la ficcíon a lo factible in Mexico City. photo / courtesy of Arch Days CDMX
The border wall conceived by Black, Hübsch, and Zau in their group project Coalescence. Two drawings from Yue (Maria) Ma's project American Dream or American Nightmare: 2020, 2050, 2070. Perception, Coalition by Isabella Hübsch and Christina Zau. AAP student projects were also selected for the Arch Days CDMX exhibition Utopía: De la ficcíon a lo factible in Mexico City. photo / courtesy of Arch Days CDMX
News
December 13, 2018

Amidst the growing controversy surrounding the U.S. border with Mexico, students at Cornell and 12 other architecture programs joined in an intercollegiate project examining Mexican-American topics in architecture. The collaboration culminated in Two Sides of the Border, an international exhibition of student work currently on display at the Yale School of Architecture.

Participating in the collaboration was the spring 2018 architecture option studio Fly on the Wall: Reimagining Cross-Border Territories Through Design Thinking, taught by visiting critics in architecture Derek Dellekamp, Rozana Montiel, and Erin Pellegrino (B.Arch. '14). The class traveled to San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico — the busiest land border crossing in the world — to develop projects for the international collaboration coordinated by Tatiana Bilbao, a visiting professor at the Yale School of Architecture and founder of the Mexico City–based practice Tatiana Bilbao Estudio.

The exhibition was conceived by Bilbao to show the student projects completed in her studios at Yale and Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (GSAPP), and the projects created for the Cornell studio and 10 other architecture studios in universities in the U.S. and Mexico. These included Universidad Iberoamericano, University of Washington, Texas Tech University, and Universidad de Monterrey, among others. The exhibition includes photographic documentation of the studios' sites by Iwan Baan and was designed by NILE, the office of Nile Greenberg. Greenberg cotaught with Bilbao at Columbia University GSAPP.

The class field trip to San Diego and Tijuana aimed to impartially observe the barriers in border landscapes and territories "like a fly on the wall." According to the class syllabus, the "ancient strategy" of the wall draws people together on both sides despite its intended purpose to repel them. Investigations resulted in student projects that documented "border management experiences" at various sites and designed or redesigned walls that are part of the site's infrastructure.

Employing a utopian/dystopian approach, the students were asked to imagine the wall as a positive part of a territory's infrastructure — as safe boundaries contributing to the intricacy of social and commercial life. Final projects were gathered in an atlas of border visions designed by the students.

Student work selected for the Yale exhibition included drawings by Hallie Black (B.Arch. '19); the team of Isabella Hübsch (B.Arch. '19) and Christina Zau (B.Arch. '19); Yue (Maria) Ma (M.Arch. '19); Hyojin (Jinny) Lee (M.Arch.II '18); Ellen Park (M.Arch. '18); and Kaylin Park (B.Arch. '19).

In Black's project titled Border Policy: “Extrastatecraft” and the Economicon, a 100-mile area encompasses 7.9 million people on the U.S. side in various states of appeal for asylum, detention, and deportation.

"Billions [of dollars] flow into border protection agencies and surveillance systems to control human flow," writes Black in the class atlas. Her vision "argues that those billions can be used more pragmatically and productively to control exchanges and trade surplus."

In Perception, Coalition, Hübsch and Zau propose two border cities separated by a 30-foot "post-Trump wall" that also functions as a memorial to commemorate "a time in which nothing existed or happened on one side that didn't affect the other."

Ma's project, American Dream or American Nightmare: 2020, 2050, 2070, includes a steel ark that circumvents a border wall to establish fair trade between the separated peoples. According to Ma, the project is "a regional vision of the border between the U.S. and Mexico, and, in a broader context, refers to segregation and discrimination in our society."

Projects from the exhibition also garnered other awards. Both Black's project and the group project by Hübsch and Zau were selected as finalists in the AIA Dallas 2018 Ken Roberts Memorial Delineation Competition (KRob), and Ma's work was selected for a Highly Commended prize in the 2018 Architecture Drawing Prize competition displayed at the Sir John Soane's Museum in London and the World Architecture Festival in Amsterdam this fall.

Two Sides of the Border is on view at the Yale School of Architecture Gallery through February 9, 2019. Drawings from the projects by Black, the team of Hübsch and Zau, and Ma were also selected for a separate exhibition that opened during 2018 Mexico Design Week in Mexico City, October 13–14. Organized by Arch Days CDMX, Utopía: De la ficcíon a lo factible opened on October 13 and runs through January 27, 2019, in the former Candela Train Station in the Chapultepec Park.

In addition to the exhibition, a book documenting the sites investigated by the studios and photographed by Baan will be published by Lars Müller Publishing.

By Patti Witten