“A wall will not only divide two neighboring countries, but two cultures and alliances that have been shared throughout the history of both nations,” Nicole Zollner said during a presentation on creating a “shared city born out of boundaries.”
On Wednesday, students in UNM’s School of Architecture and Planning presented alternatives to President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall, such as renewable energy to drone patrols.
UNM assistant professor Ane Gonzalez said she chose this topic to challenge her students to think about the “role of architects” in solving social and political problems.
“I want them to understand that architecture is not just building a building,” Gonzalez said. “It can be related to politics and organization…Sometimes we just think architecture is just building a structure along with all of the technical aspects, but I think there are more layers to it.”
Gonzalez recognizes that the topic is controversial; however, she said it is important that her students are “opening up the conversation” and thinking about their role in the community.
As part of the project, students wrote a letter to Trump, criticizing policies, ranging from immigration to environmental regulations.
The students then highlighted potential issues arising from the border wall and proposed solutions. In their closing remarks to the president, the students said, “sincerely, this is not a wall.”
Hoping to spread the message of their projects, Gonzalez set up a Twitter account under the handle, @ThisIsNotAWall.
“We want to use Twitter to send the letters to the president,” she said.
Gonzalez is not certain the president will see the letters, but hopes that putting them on Twitter will allow others to see them and they will become a “viral trend.”
Diana Duran, an architecture student at UNM, believes Trump’s border wall will isolate the United States, ending its important role in the international community.
“If you really want to isolate a country, will a wall work?” she said. “When the walls keep rising, we will keep tearing them down.”
Duran said architects are “agents of change,” adding that it is necessary for them to “step forward to change the things they don’t like.”
“We need to embrace the fact that Mexico is not just another country,” she said. “They are a part of us. They are our brothers and sisters. We cannot just give up. Instead of closing, let’s open up and embrace them.”
For her project, Duran hypothesized that Trump’s isolationism will create economic strife, causing “Americans to be the border crossers.” She then described a scenario where the wall was erected, and Americans brought it tumbling down.
Cesar Vargas recognized the country’s problems of illegal immigration and drug smuggling from Mexico, calling for a secure border but denounced the concrete wall from California to Texas.
“As a citizen of the United States, I would like to let you know that your border wall proposal for the U.S. and Mexican border will be a complete failure,” Vargas said, addressing Trump.
Vargas said the United States should “not have infrastructure where we don’t need it.”
His alternative solution emphasized the country’s technological capability to patrol and monitor the border, stating that through technology the United States can control its border “without segregating anyone.”
Vargas said the country can maximize its surveillance by using drones and sensors that “detect anything below or above ground” instead.
Other students proposed alternatives that focused on renewable resources, emphasizing the role of solar panels along the desert border and adding that renewable resource plants would increase economic productivity and interaction between both countries.
Andres Del Aguila is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Andres_DA95.