Berkeley Prof Reimagines US / Mexico Border

Instead of a series of buttresses, razor wire and fencing along the 700-mile U.S. and Mexico border, how about water-retention stations, solar farms and a confessional.

Provacative ideas like this has led UC Berkeley Prof. Ronald Rael to reimagine the present border more as an opportunity -- physically, politically and culturally -- as opposed to the polarizing barrier it is.

“Our wall is as unsophisticated as a wall built 2,000 years ago,” Rael told UC Berkeley's News Center.

"Border Wall as Infrastructure," a proposal by Oakland-based Rael San Fratello Architects, was a finalist in 2010's Working Public Architecture 2.0 competition at UCLA. (Entire report with more artistic renderings is here.)

“It would be easy for me to raise a picket sign and as an architect say, ‘Down with this wall!’” Rael said in a release. “I have to accept the wall because it exists, but as a designer I see that something better is possible. Why not do something intelligent, something incredible? I envision not just a ‘dumb wall,’ but a social infrastructure that connects and improves lives on both sides.”

And the border is an economic issue, and not in a macro way. Each breach -- 3,363 in 2009 -- costs $1,300 to repair. The money used to build and maintain the border fence would, in Rael's estimation, cost the same as 10 Denver International Airports or 18 miles of the San Francisco Bay Bridge.

For a more in-depth version of Rael's presentation, click here.

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