Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello have long worked in activating structures in projects that blur the line between art and architecture. The Oakland-based duo, who self-describe as pursuing “applied architectural research”, also have a longstanding interest in the United States-Mexico border wall. In 2009 Rael wrote Borderwall as Architecture, which features a conceptual drawing of a teetertotter. The concept relocates the classic playground equipment to the border wall as its fulcrum. Ten years later, this cover art came to life in the neighboring communities of Sunland Park, New Mexico and Colonia Anapra, Mexico.
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Constructed by Taller Herrería in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, neon pink teetertotters slot through the wall’s narrow gaps, allowing citizens on both sides to playfully engage with their cross-border counterparts. The fundamental design of the teetertotter, while delightful and chuckle-inducing, also functions by each user literally feeling the weight of humanity of the person on the other side. In an Instagram post announcing the project Rael shared, “children and adults were connected in meaningful ways on both sides with the recognition that the actions that take place on one side have a direct consequence on the other side.”
Rael and San Fratello worked in collaboration with Omar Rios to execute “Teetertotter Walls.” Rael is a Professor of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley and San Fratello is an Assistant Professor at San José State University. Dive into an archive of nearly twenty years of the duo’s socially engaged work on their website, and follow along with their latest projects on Instagram.