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Instead of Trump's Wall, Why Not a Binational Border City?

A Mexican architect has a utopian vision for a walkable city straddling the U.S.-Mexico border.

A hyperconnected, transnational city on the U.S.-Mexico border is architect Fernando Romero's take on "building bridges." (Fernando Romero Enterprise)

Donald Trump keeps talking about the big, beautiful wall he’s going to erect on the U.S.-Mexican border. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton wants to build bridges—metaphorical ones, that is.

Mexican architect Fernando Romero has taken a more literal approach to Clinton’s proposition. He’s long been a proponent of “building bridges,” and believes that boundaries are obsolete. “With technology, those borders are just becoming symbolic limits,” he recently told Dezeen Magazine. "The reality is that there exists a very strong mutual dependency of economies and trades." That’s why he has now designed a master plan for a walkable, super-connected metropolis straddling the U.S.-Mexico border.

Back in the early 2000s, Romero’s architecture firm conceptualized a tunnel-like “Bridging Museum” in the Rio Grande Valley, which would act as “both a funnel and a window between the borders.” But his vision for a utopian border city, on display at the London Design Biennale, is much more complex and detailed. Via the press release:

The concept is rooted in the long history of places where frontiers meet, cities where cultures both clash and blend to create something altogether unique, places like Hong Kong, Andorra, Baarle Hertog/Baarle Nassau, and Standstead/Derby Line. Border City is the first integrated masterplan for a binational city conducive to both sides of the border, employing tools of enterprise such as special economic zones to argue for its viability.

Here's a video of his installation from the Biennale:

Romero’s city would lie between New Mexico and Texas in the U.S. and Chihuahua in Mexico. He includes in it the positive elements of neighboring El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, like their bustling sister economies, but plans away some of the limitations. His city has no worries about currency exchange rates and restrictions on moving, studying, or working on either side of the border. Also: No sprawl.

It’s multipolar, with many business districts and specialized economic sectors; It’s super-connected, allowing for a steady circulation of people, goods, and services within it and outside it. At its heart lies the inland port of Santa Teresa, a recently opened freight hub at New Mexico-Mexico border. The I-10 highway connects the city’s dense and walkable urban area to far-flung regions in East and West Coasts of the U.S. And a web of other roadways and express trains link the city’s various economic hotspots and key industries.

This isn’t a purely conceptual project: Romero wants to actually build it on private land in the next decade of so, Dezeen reports. Just as well, because according to global strategist Parag Khanna, hyperconnected urban centers will soon become the most powerful actors on a global stage. In that sense, Romero’s vision represents the future of cities.

Check out the diagrams and renderings illustrating the various components of Romero’s plan below:

A hexagonal grid with criss-crossing roadways links economic hubs North of the border with San Jeronimo and San Jose in the South. (Fernando Romero Enterprise)
The Inland port of Santa Teresa can link supply and demand chains.  (Fernando Romero Enterprise)
People can move around freely by car, or via the express trains. (Fernando Romero Enterprise)
The hexagonal city has high density zoning features, with a couple of central business districts.  (Fernando Romero Enterprise)
Plenty of roads connect the different neighborhoods. (Fernando Romero Enterprise)
But there’s no dearth of public transit. (Fernando Romero Enterprise)
Romero’s border city has plenty of e-bike docks and biking paths. (Fernando Romero Enterprise)
Most importantly, it’s pedestrian-friendly. (Fernando Romero Enterprise)
When (and if) it’s completed, this is what Romero’s city might look like from the sky. (Fernando Romero Enterprise)

About the Author

  • Tanvi Misra
    Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering demographics, inequality, and urban culture. She previously contributed to NPR's Code Switch blog and BBC's online news magazine.