Kathy Velikov – Fluid Boundaries


The Fluid Boundaries studio engages students in navigating design questions within a socio-politically charged context. The work of the studio will explores design of new public spaces, landscapes, and buildings within the context of US-Mexico border metropolis of El Paso-Ciudad Juárez. Citizens that live in transborder communities have been identified as comprising a “third nation” (M. Dear), connected more by the material life and daily practices that they share than separated by the political boundaries that characterize their urban territory. The work of the studio began with a focus on water as territory, commodity, and reproductive agent, and how the concrete politics of its negotiation and control produce the physical spaces of the borderland. While the shared waters of the Rio Grande river and the rapidly diminishing underground aquifers contribute to the reproductive capacity of land within the desert climate, it is the infrastructures of water supply and sanitation that are material witnesses to socio-spatial injustices and imbalances that impact social reproduction within the border cities. Drawing on discourses and techniques that aim to redirect complex systems toward alternative societal ends, design projects attempt to remap the potential agency of water as shared matter and to rethink forms and formats of emergent urban infrastructures. The studio privileges design thinking beyond the creation of objects and spaces, to encompass the assembly and mobilization of practices and social interactions in the city.

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Student Work

Daham Marapane – “Decamping the Borderlands”

Ciudad Juarez is a city who’s urbanization has come unmoored from it’s ecology. It’s growth has only been possible through the growth of an export economy where foreign industries set up maquiladoras, tariff free factories along the US Mexico border that skirt labor and environmental protections. This system is not sustainable both in terms of human suffering and environmental
degradation. The maquiladoras must be destroyed and the export economy with it. This project is situated in a possible future where the depletion of the regional watershed and empowerment of the Mexican workers has lead the maquiladora industry to flee the city. Spaces and objects of industrial production and logistics are repurposed under cooperative ownership and tasked to renaturalize the Rio Grande, grow food and create new social commons.

Julia Jeffs, Linda Lee – “Second Cycle”

Second Cycle is interested in the relationship of waste, water, and education throughout border regions and how the reorganization of urban systems can engender greater social and economic resiliency for communities without formal service infrastructures. The design addresses water capturing and recycling strategies in efforts to reduce waste and minimize contamination through an assembly of networks, objects and spaces.

Within the circulation of materials and practices that leverage local knowledge and experience toward collective efforts of sustainability, a new form of social is created.

Kum Wai Victoria See – “Secured”

The initial impetus for this proposition was the ambivalent relationship that Juárez seemed to have with water. The annual rainfall patterns, the natural terrain and existent water infrastructure contribute to bouts of lack and oversupply of water, rendering it a greater destructive force than desired. That said, at a workshop during the studio trip earlier this semester, the local students shared with us alternative experiences of what we would typically deem disastrous. Examples included playing and swimming in the floodwaters or scavenging for treasure after the floodwaters
receded. This project is thus inspired by such a resilience, with the hope of rethinking plausible uses of floodwater for education, food, income and graywater reuse.

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