Ronald Rael is an applied architectural researcher, design activist, author, and thought leader in the fields of additive manufacturing and earthen architecture while having a simultaneous research field at the intersection of politics and architecture at the U.S. Mexico Border.
His new book, Borderwall as Architecture: A Manifesto for the U.S.-Mexico Boundary (University of California Press 2017), advocates for a reconsideration of the existing barrier dividing the U.S. and Mexico through design proposals that are hyperboles of actual scenarios that have occurred as a consequence of the Wall. Rael’s work looks at cross-border exchange, examining the flows of culture, people, economy and ecology across the border. His investigations into border architecture stretch back ten years, and concerns ‘the spaces between walls.’
The recent escalation of border rhetoric and ideological conflict worldwide has renewed public attention to this particular border, although none of the issues there are new issues. The landscape, the ecology, and the politics remain a shifting mosaic that is best understood by those that live and work in this bi-national community. Political rhetoric turns a regional issue into a national one, and even moreso into an ideological one.
Rael’s recent book, which contains contributions from Teddy Cruz, Marcello Di Cintio, Norma Iglesias-Prieto and Michael Dear examines the architectural implications of an unfolding ideological landscape. Collectively, the book teases out a possibility that the border could be examined as a place of learning, exchange and mutual support, rather than as the defensive, nationalist symbol being discussed.
We had a chance to talk with Professor Rael about his recent work and intersect between design and politics on Social Design Insights. Have a listen here.