Bi-national Design presentations

I just left the presentation for the binational design competition. The team from Berkeley got hung up in Phoenix and will be presenting their project at 4 pm today at the museum along with a talk by one of the jurors Felipe Leal.
The two other presentations were interesting, if for nothing else, than getting people to start thinking about different ways for our two cities to connect in ways they don’t already.
This was a design for a corridor 7 blocks wide and 30 blocks long connecting the hearts of downtown El Paso and Juarez.
The team from UTEP, most of whom are graphic art students presented their project called “Solutions for Downtown El Paso and Northern Juarez by students who live in and love this region.” They all obviously do love this region, and Lawrence Speck, one of the jurors, said one of the reasons this group was chosen as a finalist was because they were from here and their love for the area “was palpable.” They had a variety of projects which mostly entailed making some uniform connections between the two cities. They wanted street signs to be uniform on both sides with colors reflecting certain things-green for streets, red for historical places. They wanted maps and a tourist center as well as a market. Since security seems to be an issue for a llot of the people they talked to,t hey suggested a special police force who would double as information givers, and who would wear a certain non threatening sort of uniform. They wanted a permanent flea market stall and newly designed carts for vendors. They wanted consistent use of certain colors to reflect our area-blue to reflect the sky, red representing the color of the buildings. It actually began to feel a bit like Martha Stewart meets the border, but their love was evident, and as graphic artists they are perhaps accustomed to thinking about branding even when they may not realize that’s what they are doing. There was also an interesting idea to use solar powered street lights, which would take advantage of our sun and conserve energy.

The team from the Art Insdtitute of Chicago called Tierra Suspirando which was also the name of their project are involved with community art projects and fostering dialogue through art and community action. They sound like an amazing organization which I hope to write more about in the near future. At least of the members was, in fact, born in El Paso. As might be expected their project was about fostering community dialogue. They actually presented four separate projects as their presentation. “Aural Exchange” was about furnishing a low power community radio station which would broadcast at the bridge as well as be available for downloading as podcasts. This would contain stories from the members of the community-oral history, music, community activities, local experiences and interviews to be shared on both sides of the border.There would be a van from whicvh it could be broadcast and riders could be interviewed, etc.
“La Luz Illumina” was a joint sculpture to rise over the bridge consisting of lights which could be controlled and manipulated by people on both sides of the border to communicate with people on the other side. The idea behind this is to try to establish communication which transcends language.
“Espejo en la Frontera” was designed to allow local artists and community members on both sides to create artworks and workshops whose products could be displayed along the bridge. Community artwork created in Juarez would be displayed in El Paso and vice-versa.
No Pasan-Pasaremos” is. frankly, the sort of idea that could only be conceived by graduate students. The idea is to close the bridge for one day to all traffic as a day of observance for the community to think about the border and what it means-there would be art projects, and meetings, etc in order to force people to think about the times when the border is closed-what it means to not be able to pass through etc. Interesting idea-needs work, I say.
As I said the third group will present at 4 this afternoon. I believe their project is more architectural, but we shall see. What is interesting about all of these plans is that it gets us thinking about connections-about the area on both sides of the border. For those of you reading this who are not familiar with this area-who have never been here, you have no idea of how close geographically and culturally we are here. I can just walk across a brdge and I am in Juarez. It is the largest frontier metroplex in the world and an amazing place. Anything we can do to make people realize what we have here is all to the good. I might be wrong but I did not notice anyh city council members attending this presentation although members from the cultural affairs department and the art museum were well in attendance. The lack of council members however says much.-david sokolec

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