Fences

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Image: Proposal by Eric Owen Moss

In June 2006, NYTimes released an article called “A Fence With More Beauty, Fewer Barbs.” The content of the article was about a new fence being proposed for the 2,000 mile border between the United States and Mexico in order to increase national security while decreasing illegal immigrantion. The New York Times decide to ask 13 architects/firms to participate in a design challenge in rethinking the fence, however, the answer from one of my favorite architecture firm was troubling to me. As a classic design challenge, The New York Times asked 13 architects and urban planners to devise the “fence.” Several declined because they felt it was purely a political issue. “It’s a silly thing to design, a conundrum,” said Ricardo Scofidio of Diller Scofidio & Renfro in New York. “You might as well leave it to security and engineers.”

As a architect in training and will be entering the work force in less than a year, I find it troubling that a role model for many architects to be would address such a project full of political issues to be “silly”. His statement raises many questions about the profession of architecture. Should we avoid political architecture? In my opinion, architecture itself is embedded with politics whether we want to believe it or not, in some project it is more easily mediated than others, nonetheless, it is always present. I believe as architects, we cannot save the world, but we have the responsibility to take a political stand point in our design. 8 out of the13 architects and urban planners that were asked by NY Times decided not to take part, however, my thought is that if the firm does not believe in the idea of the wall, perhaps propose a design that reflect such an ideal instead of turning their backs on it and not do anything. By proposing an idea, it can help to generate dialogue and make changes. At the end of the day, the politial issue at hand is very much architectural. Whether we want it or not, the government plans to build a huge physical wall, and an architect could propose something that would question the government to reconsider whether the wall is necessary.

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