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.


“A protest against the wall and a forecast about its future.”—Allison Arieff, The New York Times

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

“A protest against the wall and a forecast about its future.”

— Allison Arieff,

"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."

— London Review of Books

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

— Architectural Record

Borderwall as Architecture explores how architects can undermine the wall not just structurally, but conceptually. Today, the wall symbolizes xenophobia and fear. Designs that promote social, economic, and ecological development on both sides of the border could rewrite that narrative. In the past, groups have gathered on both sides of the wall to hold yoga meetups and stage horse races. Rael draws inspiration from these and other examples to highlight opportunities for subversion and change.”

— Wired

"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,

"...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."

— Times Higher Education

Borderwall As Architecture goes into keen scholarly detail on the walls at the US-Mexico border…Rael offers many such concepts in the book, which often have a whimsy about them that reminds me of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities.”

— Bruce Sterling,

“[Rael’s] imagination is audacious, and he smartly frames his “grand tour” of the border as a procession of vignettes that shift easily between history, architectural what-ifs and what you might call postcards from the front.”

— John King,

" 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 Daily Beast

“[A} small book with big ideas…Rael shows that alternative proposals depicted through architecture (drawings, models, renderings) are also a legitimate form of protest.”

— A Daily Dose of Architecture

"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."

— World Policy Journal

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

— Diplomat & International Canada

“Rael presents the wall not as a simple securitized object but as a critical facet of life cutting through communities and the desert— [for example] …“House Divided” presents a mode for architecture to both illustrate the recursive logic of the geometric barrier and frame it within a domestic typology that can be read in all of its complex relations.”

— The Avery Review

"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." 

— New York Journal of Books