Rethinking the border: The design of the tangible and intangible within the public space

Project in the Border between Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora that seeks to transform it into a more humanize perspective and give the communities the chance to reconnect with one another.
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Designer(s) : Eva María Gaytán Lizárraga, Valeria Oyervides Ochoa, and Daniela Cárdenas Valdés

University : Universidad de Monterrey

Tutor(s) : Marcelo Alejandro Espinosa Martínez.

Since their beginning, borderlands between Mexico and the U.S.A. have been recognized as insecure and marginalize regions. The lack of attention and complexity of these areas led to a culture of tension and division. Daily activities, along with opportunities for economic and cultural growth between both countries, were set aside.

Even though humans insist on marking territorial limits, culture and nature have surpassed them by being a zone of transition and exchange. However, borders have been treated as static and permanent elements. For this reason, the project seeks to find an answer that allows to rethink the border. Where tangible and intangible elements are considered to try and change the idea’s stigmatization of a wall, limit, or division. As well as giving citizens the opportunity to have a decent, accessible, and versatile space.

The project’s objective is designing an urban-architectural public space in the border condition between the cities of Nogales, Sonora, Mexico and Nogales, Arizona, U.S.A. that seeks to rethink the concept of it through the operational understanding of the tangible and intangible through border fractures. Therefore, 4 border conditions were identified with the possibility of uniting both cities and collaborating on the line to transform it into a positive and productive element. In each condition, a specific proposal was made considering its context and needs.

The recreational fracture was designed to create ‘shared spaces’ in which children and teenagers from both countries can access, coexist, and bond from a young age. Being close to schools, these areas have playgrounds, skate parks, food courts, tennis, baseball, basketball, and volleyball fields.

The design of the cultural fracture includes a pedestrian and bike path in each side of the border that extends with topography’s natural slopes. Alongside these paths are different border types such as: a migrants’ memorial, an interactive both-side used wall, and a permanent exhibition of Both Nogales’ history (the story of how a city was divided and separated by a wall). This space seeks to expand the bilateral cultural offer and reactivate the historic downtown.

The third border fracture was intended to create a pleasant crossing experience in a more efficient way, besides connecting both countries in a tangible and intangible way. By changing the topography and lowering the height of the walls, people in the proposed pedestrian streets can see through the border. Along the line, pedestrians can find places to sit down and contemplate nature while waiting in line.

The wilderness fracture proposes paths along a section of the border. The path follows a protected natural reserve area creating shared spaces and attractive ecotourism activities around the desert.

Altogether, borderlands develop identity and cultural mixed processes between 2 nations, creating a new cross-border culture. Consequently, the project’s importance lies in directing both cities to achieve a cross-border community where people can interact and share ideas, thus learning and benefit from each other. In the end, the project seeks to grant a role and opportunity to the citizen to live, transgress, learn, and transform the border in their daily life. That is how communities connect and change starts.

Furthermore, the project works as a reference for future border interventions that seek to build bridges between cultures for the common good and prepare us for the day when, perhaps, there will be a borderless world.Marcelo Alejandro Espinosa Martínez.