Although it only lasted for less than an hour, the Teeter Totter Wall created by Rael San Fratello with Colectivo Chopeke made international headlines when it was installed in July 2019, and has now been launched back into the spotlight at a the perfect time. The project, which allowed children on both sides of the US-Mexico border wall to play together via pink seesaws, has been awarded the Design of the Year prize 2020, on the final day of the racist, autocrat wannabe Trump presidency.
Rael San Fratello had been developing the idea for the seesaws over a decade as part of its ongoing work focusing on the border wall. The project was intended as a symbol of trade and labor relationships between the two countries, aimed to demonstrate that actions taking place on one side of the border have direct consequences on the other, viewing the boundary as a “site of severance”. “Mexicans throng to the US to find work, but often long to live comfortably in their own country,” studio Rael San Fratello states on its website. “US industry and agriculture is dependent upon immigrant labor pools, yet the Department of Homeland Security, Border Patrol, and Immigration and Naturalization Services have made it increasingly difficult to attract foreign labor. The Teeter Totter Wall demonstrates the delicate balances between the two nations.”
When it was first built, studio co-founder and professor of architecture at the University of California Ronald Rael said the realization of the project brought “joy, excitement and togetherness at the border wall,” and that 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.”
Upon winning the design prize, fellow co-founder Virginia San Fratello, an associate professor of design at San José State University, told The Guardian: “I think it’s become increasingly clear with the recent events in our country that we don’t need to build walls we need to build bridges.”