A patrol driving next to the current US and Mexico border wall.

Architects Protest Competition to Design a Border Wall Between the US and Mexico

Last month, an anonymous group of architects, designers, and artists who call themselves the Third Mind Foundation launched a competition calling for the design of a border wall between the US and Mexico. Titled “Call for entries: Building the Border Wall?”, the competition has been harshly criticized by architects and media outlets, reports Sukjong Hong of the New Republic.

On the same day that Arch Daily added the call for entries to its website’s competition page, Fabrizio Gallanti, an architect and founder of FIG, a Montreal-based firm, started the hashtag #boycottArchDaily. He said that his anger was partially caused by some of the language used to describe the competition, which originally called for designs that have “architectural merit,” will be inexpensive to build and maintain, and will “be effective in keeping out waves of illegal immigration.” This statement has since been deleted from the competition’s website.

Architect Teddy Cruz, who has spent his career working in the US and Tijuana, said that sometimes architects just need to know when not to build. The website Bustler refused to publish the competition, telling the organizers they “fear that it promotes xenophobia.”

Although the competition’s website maintains that it is “politically neutral,” critics have said that asking for submissions for a wall is the same thing as endorsing the building of a border wall, an issue which Donald Trump has wielded as the torch of his campaign to be the Republican presidential nominee.

The only person known to be associated with the competition is John Beckmann—founder of the New York-based design firm Axis Mundi and chief organizer of the Third Mind Foundation. He said that the organizers of the project are “just trying to set up a venue for people to rethink the wall, to rethink the border situation.”

Amid all the backlash, Arch Daily did not take the competition down from its site, instead it has clarified its position on the issue, stating:

“We believe that decent, enlightened and civil conversations can emerge from controversial statements. We hope that those readers who respond will do so with projects that challenge the brief itself, subverting (if they think it necessary) the assumptions that underlie this brief. We hope that architects will address this issue with ingenuity, with responses that draw on our creativity and expertise. It seems silly to have to spell it out, but we imagined submissions that do not show a wall, for example.”

The competition is accepting submissions until August 2016 and will announce the finalists as well as the winner, who will receive a $5,000 prize, in the fall.