Feb. 25, 2019
Professor Ronald Rael gave a TED talk in December as part of a TED Salon curated around the theme of belonging. Six speakers shared personal meditations on where they find hope for a more welcoming world and shone a light on the breakthroughs and ideas that might get us there.
Professor Rael studies the US-Mexico border, where nearly 700 miles of wall divide the two countries — “an arcane, medieval architecture … an overly simplistic response to a complex set of issues,” he says. It’s estimated that the wall approved in 2006 will cost $49 billion to construct and maintain over the next 25 years — not including the additional $70 billion estimated for the walls currently proposed. Beyond that, there’s the human toll: more than 7,000 people have died trying to cross the border. To communicate the financial and human cost of the wall, Rael designs moving, sometimes satirical souvenirs — things like postcards, “bordergames” and snow globes that reimagine the social and economic realities of the border. They nod to activities like “wall y ball,” a borderland version of volleyball played across the wall, or patrol agents purchasing treats from vendors through the divide — activities that question the meaning of a “wall.” “There are not two sides defined by a wall — it is one landscape divided,” he says. “We should be designing a ‘Reunited States,’ not a ‘Divided States.'”
Ronald Rael is Professor of Architecture and the Eva Li Memorial Chair in Architecture at the College of Environmental Design. Read about his book, "Borderwall as Architecture," and his studio projects with partner Virginia San Fratello.