Borderwall as Architecture (Paperback)

A Manifesto for the U.S.-Mexico Boundary

By Ronald Rael, Teddy Cruz (Preface by), Marcello Di Cintio (Contributions by), Norma Iglesias-Prieto (Contributions by), Michael Dear (Contributions by)

University of California Press, 9780520283947, 200pp.

Publication Date: April 4, 2017

List Price: 29.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Borderwall as Architecture is an artistic and intellectual hand grenade of a book, and a timely re-examination of what the physical barrier that divides the United States of America from the United Mexican States is and could be. It is both a protest against the wall and a projection about its future. Through a series of propositions suggesting that the nearly seven hundred miles of wall is an opportunity for economic and social development along the border that encourages its conceptual and physical dismantling, the book takes readers on a journey along a wall that cuts through a “third nation”—the Divided States of America. On the way the transformative effects of the wall on people, animals, and the natural and built landscape are exposed and interrogated through the story of people who, on both sides of the border, transform the wall, challenging its existence in remarkably creative ways. Coupled with these real-life accounts are counterproposals for the wall, created by Rael’s studio, that reimagine, hyperbolize, or question the wall and its construction, cost, performance, and meaning. Rael proposes that despite the intended use of the wall, which is to keep people out and away, the wall is instead an attractor, engaging both sides in a common dialogue. Included is a collection of reflections on the wall and its consequences by leading experts Michael Dear, Norma Iglesias-Prieto, Marcello Di Cintio, and Teddy Cruz.

About the Author

Ronald Rael is Associate Professor in the departments of Architecture and Art Practice at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Earth Architecture, a history of building with earth in the modern era that exemplifies new, creative uses of the oldest building material on the planet. The Museum of Modern Art and the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum have recognized his work, and in 2014 his creative practice, Rael San Fratello, was named an Emerging Voice by the Architectural League of New York.


Praise For Borderwall as Architecture: A Manifesto for the U.S.-Mexico Boundary

" raising questions that not many others are asking about the relationship between two countries that share 2,000 miles of border, his book serves an important purpose."

"...the proposals ...attempting to transform the boundary into something more than just an obstruction, are provocative and inventive."

"Rael’s courageous mixture of subversion and compromise is not going to hide the affront that the border represents to those who live south of it."

"While border walls and separation now seem inevitable, Rael’s subversive designs seem to indicate a way forward: They allow us to cope with the current moment by preparing for a less segregated future."

"Rael sees endless opportunities for creative defiance as he exposes the wall’s xenophobic horror stories, absurdities and ironies by imagining design as both an undermining and reparative measure... [his proposals] force us to re-examine the feasibility of constructing “a big beautiful wall” around fortress America by underscoring that borders are innate zones of connectivity as much as division." 

"...a timely re-examination of what the physical barrier that divides the United States of America from the United Mexican States is and could be...alongside the architectural brutality and social displacement that almost automatically accompany such borders, Ronald Rael and his contributors also explore the ways in which highlighting the border can be transformed into new opportunities."

"Part historical account, part theoretical appraisal, and part design manifesto, Borderwall as Architecture is reminiscent of Rem Koolhaas’ Delirious New York in its sweeping assessment of both the sociocultural peculiarities and outlandish possibilities represented by a prominent structural element."

— Blaine Brownell

"This is a work that harks back to the days of Buckminster Fuller and Marshall McLuhan — especially the latter."