In the summer of 2019, videos of pink seesaws placed at the US-Mexican border went viral. Kirsty introduces you to Rael San Fratello, the architecture studio behind the project.
A ten-year project in the making, ‘Teeter Totter Wall’ first appeared to the public in Rael San Fratello’s book, ‘Borderwall as Architecture’. It was one of many propositions for social and economic development along the 650-mile US-Mexico border wall. What was the point of this project? To show that there were many missed opportunities for bringing communities together rather than dividing them with a physical border. “There are not two sides defined by a wall. This is one landscape, divided”, remarks Ronald Rael, co-founder of architecture studio Rael San Fratello.
The studio uses architecture and design to confront important social, economic, ecological and political issues that we face in the world today. As a research-led studio, many ideas remain at concept or prototype stage, on paper or in physical or virtual sketch models so that the studio can test and develop their designs. Some arrive in the real world, like ‘Teeter Totter Wall’, which was a collaboration with Mexican-based Omar Rios of Collectivo Chopeke and Taller Herrería (a workshop).
Featured image credit: Chris Gauthier ©Rael San Fratello.
Want to see more?
Watch Ronald’s Ted Talk ‘An architect’s subversive reimagining of the US-Mexico border wall’ to hear in detail why this project was so important to him and the people involved.
Follow #teetertotterwall on Instagram to see videos of the event and illustrations inspired by the project
Another area of work the studio has developed is 3D printing with sustainable materials. Together with collaborators they have developed machines that can 3D print large structures with mud, clay and other unimaginable materials. What makes this all the more special is that the raw materials were sourced locally to where the test structures were made in Mexico.
Rael San Fratello is not alone in tackling such a range of urgent issues, but they are certainly a force to be reckoned with and show you what you can achieve by combining architectural skill with a commitment to making the world a better place through design. Learning to research and think like a designer can be a powerful thing.
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