Research

Why Walls Won’t Work

US-Mexico Boundary Survey Map, 1853, Tijuana section

Why Walls Won’t Work: Repairing the US-Mexico Divide

Michael Dear, Professor of City and Regional Planning

Project Description

Project Description

Photograph

US-Mexico Border Fence

Beginning in 2002, Professor Dear traveled the entire length of the US-Mexico border on both sides, a journey of 4,000 miles. What he found was a “third nation,” neither fully Mexican nor American, but a vibrant combination of both, with extremes of wealth and poverty, teeming with political and cultural change. Rather than a zone of separation, Dear describes this area as a connecting membrane between the countries, emphasizing continuity and coexistence over sovereignty and difference.

The current physical form of the border—the Wall—came from the United States’ unilateral fortification of the entire border after 9/11. The environmental design response to the Wall is diverse and surprising. From a canvas for artwork to an instrument for musicians, the Wall has become more than just a barrier. Environmental design professionals are involved in developing water, energy, and anti-pollution schemes along its length.

Despite all this, Professor Dear feels that the Wall will come down, as walls always do. The connective tissue of the third nation is too strong. And when it does, the natural development of binational lives and values will continue to strengthen the region.