Monument to those who have died crossing the border from Mexico into the US along the border fence in Tijuana (photo © Tomas Castelazo, / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0)

Monument to those who have died crossing from Mexico into the US along the border fence in Tijuana (photo © Tomas Castelazo / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0)

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) received hundreds of proposals for the wall that President Trump wants to build along the 1,989-mile border between the US and Mexico. The designs, which DHS’s Customs and Border Protection is currently evaluating, were drawn up by architecture firms, defense contractors, security companies, engineers, designers, and artists, among others.

Bidders’ goals and aesthetic sensibilities vary wildly, from the brutal functionality of proposals that resemble the walls surrounding US Army bases in foreign countries to designs that dress up their nefarious purpose with beneficial features like solar panels or passageways for small animals, to utopian visions that seek to unify the region rather than divide it. It’s still too early to say what sort of wall, if any, will ultimately get built — a short list of proposals that will move on to the prototyping phase is expected to be announced around June 1. But a survey of known proposals shows most are frightfully unimaginative and ruthless in their plans to devastate fragile ecologies, divide sacred Native lands, imperil human rights, and soak up billions of US taxpayers’ dollars in the process — though a few are more hopeful and creative. The following six proposals give a sense of this eclecticism.

The Utopian Anti-Wall

Rendering of the Otra Nation proposal (image courtesy MADE Collective)

Rendering of the Otra Nation near El Paso (image courtesy MADE Collective)

Rendering of the Otra Nation hyperloop station in Tijuana (image courtesy MADE Collective)

Proposed by: MADE Collective, a group of Mexican and US designers, architects, engineers, and builders
Distinguishing features: The proposal calls for the creation of Otra Nation, a half-Mexican, half-US co-nation with shared infrastructure and a border-long hyperloop transportation system.

What attracted you to bid on the border wall project?

MADE Collective: “We believe our two countries need a positive debate that focuses on job creation, energy independence, and how the sharing economy can power our nations to a brighter future. We are calling for a bi-national referendum on the creation of Otra Nation — a new shared territory of the United States and Mexico.”

What is the main goal of your design?

The scheme was sent to both governments of the United States and Mexico to develop the world’s first shared co-nation, removing the existing physical border, creating a regenerative shared territory, building a hyperloop transportation network, and implementing biometric and iris-scanning systems allowing free movement of anyone in North America. We are looking to build the world’s largest interconnected solar farms and focus on developing regenerative agriculture. Most importantly, we will save the US taxpayer $11–28 billion to be reinvested in healthcare, education, the EPA, and the arts, while creating two million jobs and $1 trillion in investment. We believe this is a pro-North American proposal.”

The Animal-Friendly Wall

Rendering of Black Security Products’ wall (image courtesy Black Security Products, LLC)

Proposed by: Black Security Products, LLC of Austin, Texas
Distinguishing features: One-foot-tall gap at its foundation that allows for passage of small animals and water runoff; elevated road for border patrol cars to traverse.

What attracted your firm to bid on the border wall project?

President Stephen Neusch: “It falls in our wheelhouse. We do anti-terrorism systems and access control. … All of our contracts are with the federal government.”

What is the main goal of your design?

“It meets all the requirements while keeping the cost at a reasonable amount. That’s for every government job we bid for. You try to find something that meets all the requirements, but you want some value added to make good selling points. Ours leans towards the environmental side, with water fluid and animal passage. Those were selling points, and in doing all of that we came up with the most cost-efficient way. … Aesthetics, honestly, were the last thing on our mind. There’s so much to do as far as the security level of it, the size, and magnitude.”

The Aqueduct Wall

Rendering of Advanced Warning Systems’s wall (image courtesy Advanced Warning Systems)

Rendering of Advanced Warning Systems’s wall (image courtesy Advanced Warning Systems)

Proposed by: Advanced Warning Systems of Lake Havasu City, Arizona
Distinguishing features: Constant-flow aqueduct along the American side to supply water to nearby areas; 22-foot-tall wall built from solar panels, erected at least 100 feet from the actual border, to power surveillance equipment in command stations and to generate marketable electricity; chain-link border fence (funded by the Mexican government) on the actual border, to establish a “no-man’s land” between the countries where undocumented immigrants can participate in a yearlong “special working program” that will give them limited legal status in the US upon completion.

What attracted your firm to bid on the border wall project?

CEO Lynwood Farr: “I’m in Arizona so we’re really aware of [the immigration debate]. … The big thing for me is stopping the flow of drugs and vice versa — we’ve got a lot of firearms that are being smuggled across the border into Mexico. So it just takes care of the problem without upsetting, visually, what [the landscape] looks like and also providing water where there’s never been water before. That’s a good thing.

“It will help develop that part of the country along the Arizona-Texas borders. [American citizens in the area] will become productive because they’ll have water all the time. And electricity — instead of having diesel-powered tractors and trucks, they’ll now have battery-powered vehicles, and they’ll be able to plug them in and recharge. Just a whole host of things will be better.”

What is the main goal of your design?

Farr: “We’re really proposing something that’s a system, not a wall. … The more I looked at it, the more I saw that this is an environmental issue. You’re going to be blocking access to the water all along the Rio Grande, the Colorado, and some of the other smaller rivers. … Environment was one [priority], but then it didn’t make sense to build a big stone wall. … You can do it much easier with new technology, and that’s what we have. If this is what it takes [to curb illegal immigration], in the short term, this thing will pay for itself. We’re looking at about $10 billion to build it, and if it’s generating $200 or $300 million a year, it’s going to pay for itself.”

The Smart Wall

Rendering of DarkPulse Technologies Inc.’s wall (image courtesy DarkPulse Technologies Inc.)

Proposed by: DarkPulse Technologies Inc. of Scottsdale, Arizona
Distinguishing features: Extensive systems of sensors to detect attempted breaches of the wall both above- and belowground

What attracted your firm to bid on the border wall project?

CEO Dennis M. O’Leary: “We felt our technology was a necessary part of any physical wall proposed on the border. Our belief is that, with any barrier, there needs to be an system that will alert CBP to any activities that would defeat a physical barrier, such as climbing, destruction, or, most important, tunneling under the wall. We proposed a smartwall to the government.”

What is the main goal of your design?

“The main goal of our design is to prevent wall breaches by alerting border agents of activities in and around the wall, but most importantly, send alerts regarding any tunneling activity under the wall. The alerts are provided in real time — something that current technologies have been unable to do. We’re excited to be able to offer so many additional capabilities regarding awareness along the southern border.”

The Solar Panel Wall

Rendering of the Mexican side of the wall (image courtesy Gleason Partners)

Rendering of one section of the Mexican side of the wall (image courtesy Gleason Partners)

Rendering of the US side of the wall (image courtesy Gleason Partners)

Proposed by: Gleason Partners LLC of Las Vegas, Nevada
Distinguishing features: Modular design including two tiers of south-facing solar panels

What attracted your firm to bid on the border wall project?

Managing Partner Tom Gleason: “Ever since Donald Trump announced his intention to build a wall with Mexico, I wanted to get to President Trump a design for the wall that would be safest for the boys and young men trying to climb the walls and design a wall that would pay for itself with electricity production and four barriers of resistance, each with sensors to advise US Border Patrol when an intruder was making their way over or through the wall and activating lights and cameras for immediate visuals. When the solicitation was announced, we quickly began design our version of the wall, with Marko as our chief designer. Marko is a civil engineer, so we know our design will handle the earthquakes, rains, high winds, and we believe we can significantly discourage intruders from attempting to scale or penetrate our wall.”

What is the main goal of your design?

“After extensive searches on the internet, I can now understand why the ranchers along the border need the wall, and the problem is that thousands of young men, boys, and a few girls die of dehydration after they enter the USA, especially along southern Texas, and must walk for days to find help. My ethical stance is if Americans — especially at the border and our Border Patrol agents and ranchers — need the wall, then let’s make it as safe as possible, and let’s make it green and have it pay for itself.”

The Lightweight Wall

Rendering of Quantum Logistics’s wall (image courtesy Quantum Logistics)

Rendering of Quantum Logistics’s fence (image courtesy Quantum Logistics)

Proposed by: Quantum Logistics of Mission, Texas
Distinguishing features: Lightweight designs using reinforced, pre-cast concrete or non-concrete metal fencing

What attracted your firm to bid on the border wall project?

President James Carpenter: “I live on the border. My wife and I, along with my children, engage in volunteer activities that include an anti–human trafficking ministry. We see the effects an exploited border has on our community, beyond what most see and are told by the media. We see the trafficked persons, the drugs, and criminal element, and instead of complaining, for the sake of our children and our community in South Texas, we choose to be the agents of change we want to see in defense of our homeland.

“I am a veteran and a soldier by heart. … My Commander in Chief has put out a call in defense of our nation at its southern border. As a soldier, I feel obligated to answer the call of my Commander in Chief, regardless of who he is or what my political views are.

“If the wall is inevitable, then a member of my community should have a “say so” in its construction. After all, it is my community that it will be protecting, so someone from the community must represent. It is my neighbors, my children, and my family that it will affect. So I choose to stand up, not just for the sake of their security, but also for the sake of my local economy. Building the wall in south Texas, and using my firm to do so, will enable a lot of people towards gainful employment, from logistics personnel, laborers, to the local restaurants and businesses who will serve the employees.”

What is the main goal of your design?

“My design will bring to the homeland physical security engineering practices that are implemented in Iraq and Afghanistan, which safeguard US government facilities from unauthorized personnel, suicide car bombs, and terrorist attacks, while facilitating ease and economy of repair and compartmentalizing any damage caused by attack, criminal elements, and even natural disasters.”

The Latest

Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...

Claire Voon

Claire Voon is a former staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Singapore, she grew up near Washington, D.C. and is now based in Chicago. Her work has also appeared in New York Magazine, VICE,...

One reply on “Six Designs for Trump’s Border Wall, from Solar Panels to a Mexican-American Co-Nation”

Comments are closed.