A spring 2018 academic initiative led by Tatiana Bilbao, the former Norman R. Foster Visiting Professor at the Yale School of Architecture, called “Two Sides of the Border: Redefining the Region,” is the impetus for a new exhibition at the school.
Mexico City-based architect and educator Bilbao organized the academic initiative to examine regional characteristics across Mexico and the United States. The exhibition at YSoA will feature the works of 13 architecture studios from the two countries that participated in the initiative. The exhibit is on display through Feb. 9 at the YSoA gallery, 180 York St. It is on view to the public Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
This exhibition, say the organizers, investigates the urgency of shifting the narrative during a time when the current political climate exaggerates differences across the border, and at a moment when migration is at the forefront of political discourse and the North American Free Trade Agreement is being renegotiated as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
They add: “To redefine and reimagine the border region as an integrated whole is a critical project for architectural, political, and cultural institutions today.”
“Two Sides of the Border: Redefining the Region” is an exhibition in the form of an atlas presenting three perspectives: projective, objective, and subjective. The projective atlas displays work from the 13 studios’ examinations, which harnessed interdisciplinary approaches to study and propose projects dealing with cross border issues: migration, farming labor in Ohio and Kansas, and remittance houses in Mexico, among others. The objective atlas shows new maps by architect Thomas Paturet, capitalizing on the assumption that maps have the capacity to dissolve North American borders by emphasizing other geospatial relationships. These are displayed alongside historic maps presenting 400 years of shifting borders in the region, destabilizing the collective imagination of the border. The subjective atlas is a photo essay by the photographer Iwan Baan who traveled to each of the studio sites to capture their changing landscapes and architecture’s role in these regional relationships.
Examples of the common themes explored by the studios include the identification of parallel areas that have suffered similar territorial changes — deindustrialization in the Bajio and the Rust Belt, and climate-induced agricultural effects in Baja California and the Midwest — that reflect shared experiences and suggest a linked fate for populations that live thousands of miles apart.
Bilbao’s spring 2018 Yale studio travelled to Mexico’s Hidalgo state to study possibilities for reinvigoration of rural communities affected by industrial farming, while studios taught at the University of Cincinnati and The Cooper Union examined the spatial and territorial effects of industrial food production in Kansas and Ohio. Students at the University of Washington and the Universidad Iberoamericano both investigated the urban fabric and development of Mexico City, while at other universities, topics including cross-border pollution, remittance houses, and Tijuana-San Diego prompted new design proposals.
“Two Sides of the Border” aims to redefine the region and simultaneously is a collaborative project that redefines North American pedagogy. The academic initiative spans language, borders, institutions, and nationalities — all based on the shared interest in developing a comprehensive and unified imagination of the region.
The exhibition is organized by Bilbao and is designed and curated by NILE.
“Two Sides of the Border” is supported by Sasha C. Bass and sponsored by Maharam. The Yale School of Architecture’s exhibition program is supported in part by the James Wilder Green Dean’s Resource Fund, the Kibel Foundation Fund, the Nitkin Family Dean’s Discretionary Fund in Architecture, the Pickard Chilton Dean’s Resource Fund, the Paul Rudolph Publication Fund, the Robert A.M. Stern Fund, the Rutherford Trowbridge Memorial Fund, the Fred Koetter Exhibitions Fund, and the School of Architecture Exhibitions Fund.