President Donald Trump will probably never build one foot of his wall. Still, today there are 650 miles of border wall already dividing the US and Mexico. It’s almost one-third of the entire border. It divides cities, families, private property, and even impacts wildlife and habitats.
We journey to the border in this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast, as Jeff Schechtman is joined by Ronald Rael, associate professor in the department of architecture at UC Berkeley.
According to Rael, the borderlands are like a third nation, combining some of the best of language, food, and culture of the US and Mexico. More profoundly, the existing wall is just as much a place of connectivity as it is of division.
Rael explains that the current wall is actually a form of architecture. As such it defines space and in so doing defines places. It keeps people apart, but he details how it also encourages the coming together of people in unique ways.
Since we are putting them up, the current walls are structures that are always built on the US side of the border. The result are vast borderlands between the wall and Mexico. With no viable uses, this creates an otherworldliness in the areas that are sequestered behind it.
Rael points out that over the next 25 years, it will cost $49 billion just to maintain the existing structures. He speculates on what else could be built along the border with that money: things like massive solar fields or water treatment plants that would have a far greater and more positive impact on both the US and Mexico.