Borderwall Seesaw Wins Design of the Year

John Hill
19. January 2021
Teeter-Totter Wall by Rael San Fratello with Colectivo Chopeke. (All images courtesy of The Design Museum)

London's Design Museum has named the "Teeter-Totter Wall," designed by architects Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello with Colectivo Chopeke, as the Beazley Design of the Year 2020.

The bright pink Teeter-Totter Wall was up for less than one hour. It was inserted into the slats of the wall dividing Sunland Park, New Mexico, on the north and Mexico's Anapra community on the south, allowing people on both sides to come together for fun and frivolity. Ronald Rael explained the happening on Instagram: "The wall became a literal fulcrum for U.S. - Mexico relations and 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."

Teeter-Totter Wall by Rael San Fratello with Colectivo Chopeke.

As we explained in our short write-up on the installation in July 2019, the idea for the border-straddling seesaw was born ten years earlier, with a series of conceptual drawings that envisioned alternatives to the typical hard-edge borders erected between the US and Mexico. Those ideas were collected in the book Borderwall as Architecture, released in 2017, one year after Donald Trump was elected on a platform that boasted of building a "big, beautiful wall" between the countries. The slats in much of the borderwall were readymade for the installation.

The Beazley Designs of the Year were chaired by BBC journalist Razia Iqbal, who said of the overall winner: "This was an idea that really moved the judges. Not just something that felt symbolically important, it talked about the possibility of things; that all kinds of things are possible when people come together with great ideas and determination."

The Teeter-Totter Wall, which also won the Transport category, bested the five winners of the other categories: Digital, Architecture, Graphics, Product, and Fashion. All the winners are listed below, with brief descriptions courtesy of The Design Museum. Compared to previous years, like 2017, when a $500 million museum won Design of the Year, there is a clear strand across all the categories of ad-hoc and socially conscious designs that respond to the many crises affecting the world in 2020.

ModSkool by Social Design Collaborative

Social Design Collaborative
"ModSkool is a school that is designed to be easily erected and dismantled in response to forced evictions of farming communities on the floodplains of the Yamuna river in India."

A Rapist in Your Way (‘Un violador en tu camino’)
Designers: Colectivo LASTESIS
"A protest performance denouncing sexual violence against women and LGBTQ communities, A Rapist in Your Way was devised by the Chilean feminist arts group Colectivo LASTESIS."

Telfar bag
"Dubbed ‘the accessory of the decade’ by Dazed, the vegan leather, gender neutral Telfar bag has become highly coveted. The bags are available in a wide array of colors, and in three sizes that correspond to those of Bloomingdale’s disposable shopping bags."

3D rendering of SARS-CoV-2
Alissa Eckert (MSMI) and Dan Higgins (MAMS)
"This is an image of the novel coronavirus, identified as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARSCoV-2), that causes the illness COVID-19. It was commissioned by the US health organization Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which opened its emergency operations center for the COVID-19 outbreak in January 2020."

Impossible Burger 2.0 "A Better Meat for the Planet"
Impossible Foods
"Impossible Burger 2.0 is more sustainable than its predecessor, which was launched in 2016, and aims to be tastier, juicier and – crucially – beefier."

Teeter-Totter Wall
Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello with Colectivo Chopeke 
"Viewing the boundary as a site that severs relationships between the two countries, [Rael San Fratello] wanted to create a place where those across the border could connect, designing three bright pink ‘teeter- totters’ (see-saws) to slot into gaps in the steel border wall."

3D rendering of SARS-CoV-2 by Alissa Eckert (MSMI) and Dan Higgins (MAMS).

Additionally, visitors to The Design Museum in person and online were asked to select their favorites from the dozens of designs shortlisted in October

Brick arches
Hong Kong protestors
"Made from ordinary bricks, these small but powerful structures were used by Hong Kong protestors from the pro-democracy movement as roadblocks to slow down police vehicles."

Brick arches created by Hong Kong protestors.

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