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The seesaws that allow children and adults from the US-Mexico border to play win design award

By Camille Santiago Published Jan 20, 2021 2:15 am

A seesaw installation, titled "Teeter Totter Wall," which connects people on both sides of the US-Mexico border has been named the 2020 Beazley Design of the Year by The Design Museum of London.

The three bright pink seesaw installation were created by California-based architects Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, along with Colectivo Chopke. They were placed through sections of the border of El Paso, Texas and Juárez, Mexico on July 28, 2019, and for only 20 minutes, children and adults from both sides were given the chance to play and connect with each other.

On Tuesday, Jan. 19, The Design Museum announced their win on their social media accounts. Chair of the Jury and BBC broadcast journalist, Razia Iqbal said that the idea of "[connecting] meaningfully with their neighbors in an attempt to create unity at the politically divisive border," is what "really moved the judges," leading them to choose the seesaw as the overall winner of the 2020 Beazley Design and Transportation award.

"It wasn't just something that felt symbolically important, it talked about the possibility of things and I think that's what that that's what moved us that's what made us feel that all kinds of things are possible when people come together with great ideas and determination," she said.

Chief executive of LSE Cities Philipp Rode highlighted the symbolism of connection saying, “This idea of overcoming a wall or border is ultimately all about transportation, but it in a quite innovative way. So rather than transporting ourselves from A to B, it is more about that idea of connecting.”

The "Teeter Totter Wall" was 10 years in the making. "It comes at a time when we are hopeful for change and that we start building more bridges instead of walls," wrote the artist, Rael. The artists wanted to address the longtime border issue between the US and Mexico in a "meaningful" way.

"The wall became a literal fulcrum for US-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," Rael added.

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The Beazley Design of the Year aims to signal hope for the future. It "explores how design can play a role in responding to and recovering from one of the greatest challenges our world has ever faced whilst also continuing to redefine and push boundaries of creative expression as well as innovation."

And this is exactly what the artists aim it to be. San Fratello says, “The project resonated with people around the world in a way that we didn't anticipate. It speaks to the fact that most people are excited about being together, and about optimism about possibility and feature. And the divisiveness actually comes from the minority.”

Rael added, “If you believe in this relation between design and activism and you want to make change, you take that final step to make a statement about the state of affairs. That was part of it, and it was scary, but I think it was important.”

Images from The Design Museum and Colectivo Chopeke's Instagram (@colectivo.chopeke)