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Seesaws built across the US-Mexican border wall win Design of the Year

The pink seesaws were fitted across the US-Mexican border wall in the hopes of fostering a stronger sense of community between the two nations.

A number of giant pink seesaws connecting people across the US-Mexican border have just won London’s Design of the Year Award. The creators said they hoped it would build bridges between the communities, who had historically been at odds.

The “Teeter Totter Wall” was built in just 40 minutes and divides Cuidad Juárez in Mexico and El Paso in Texas. The construction was described as a “symbolically important event [that] highlighted the possibility of things.”

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Photo: Rael at the Teeter Totter Wall

Creators Ronald Rael (Professor of Architecture at the University of California) and Virginia San Fratello (Associate Professor of Design at San José State University) said that they first imagined the idea after the Secure Act was first announced back in 2006: when mass construction first began at the border.

Rael and San Fratello said the main focus of the work was to change the way people thought about borders, encouraging a dialectic rather than a divisive approach.

“I think it’s become increasingly clear with the recent events in our country that we don’t need to build walls we need to build bridges,” San Fratello said.

“Walls don’t stop people from entering our Capitol,” Rael continued. “Walls don’t stop viruses from moving. We have to think about how we can be connected and be together without hurting each other.”

Rael said the seesaws provided “a literal fulcrum” between the communities, with pink chosen as the colour in honour of the femicide memorials in Ciudad Juarez.

The creators say they wanted to address the border issue in “a very frank way but using humour,” modelling a political cartoonist approach.

While the border wall gained worldwide attention during Trump’s presidency, the creators bring attention to the fact that both George W. Bush and Barack Obama were also implicit in deporting thousands of migrants and the construction of walls between the two countries.

“[Trump] ran on a platform of saying that he was going to build a wall as if some Saviour had finally arrived to build a wall but in fact two-thirds of the wall had already been constructed,” Rael said. Trump’s promise to build a “big beautiful wall” was merely replacing the barriers that already existed.

The design beat out 70 competitors for the prize, including Lee Ha Jun’s set design from Parasite, a 3D render of the Coronavirus, and the union jack stab-proof vest designed by Banksy.