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Pink Seesaws Win Design of the Year 2020. This is How They Bridged Communities at US-Mexico Border

The pink teeter-totter that was installed in US-Mexico border in July 2019.
(Credit: Twitter)

The pink teeter-totter that was installed in US-Mexico border in July 2019. (Credit: Twitter)

The 'Teeter-Totter Wall' saw installation of three pink seesaws through the slats of the wall across El Paso in Texas and Ciudad Juárez in Mexico, bringing together children and women from the other side.

Remember the collection of three pink seesaws those were built across the US-Mexico border on July 28, 2019, as a symbol of bridging the gap between communities? The teeter-totters have now won the prestigious Design of the Year 2020 award from London Design Museum.

The 'Teeter-Totter Wall' saw installation of three pink seesaws through the slats of the wall across El Paso in Texas and Ciudad Juárez in Mexico, allowing children from the opposite sides to play together for a brief 40-minute session.

The design was ideated by Ronald Rael, a professor of architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, and Virginia San Fratello, an associate professor of design at San José State University.

The Design Museum named the project as the overall winner of the Beazley Designs of the Year competition for 2020 on Tuesday, which considered 74 projects by designers from around the world.

"It encouraged new ways of human connection and struck a chord that continues to resonate far beyond El Paso in the USA and Juarez in Mexico," museum director Tim Marlow said in announcing the prize. "It remains an inventive and poignant reminder of how human beings can transcend the forces that seek to divide us," reports AP.

The creation was executed at a time when former US President Donald Trump had planned to erect a wall along the 2000 mile border between the two countries, that had triggered a lot of controversies among global leaders.

However, the creators were instructed to get rid off the seesaws after the U.S. Border Patrol agents found out a group of professors recording children across border playing on wooded boards. Although the crowd was dissipated soon from the politically-charged site, the message carried by the entire set up went viral and till date holds significance.

WHY THE PINK SEESAWS

"Walls don’t stop people from entering our Capitol. Walls don’t stop viruses from moving. We have to think about how we can be connected and be together without hurting each other," Rael, one of the creators had said in an interview. The bright pink colouring of the planks pays homage to the femicide memorials of Ciudad Juárez, in other words, the numerous number of women, who are murdered in the city.

The creators also described that the Teeter-Totter Wall became "a literal fulcrum" between the countries.

The Wall stood for less than an hour to signify how human emotions transcend forces, those are constantly made to have people divided through border politics.

The brief session also highlighted that the 'desolated' border areas are inhabited by children and women, and a play time in-between them could be used to pioneer activism.

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THE ART AND THE ARTIST

The seesaws were a reminder that "the actions on one side have consequences on the other," according to an Instagram post of Rael.

The artists had first come up with the idea nearly a decade ago following the Secure Fence Act 2006, which began the large-scale building on the border. It became more prominent during the tenure of the 45th US Congress President Donald Trump, who had promised to build "big, beautiful walls".

The night before July 28, the duo had gone to scout the location all by themselves, after several artist groups decided not to join them in their project. After working on the project for ten years, the creators on one sudden day, installed the teeter-totter choosing a quite desolated area around the border.

It was less than hour when the Border Police had to ask them to withdraw from the site.

Deriving inspiration from political cartoonists as well, the creators wanted to talk about Trump's border politics in a 'frank yet humourous way'.

In a university publication of 2019, Rael said "this would be a moment to show to the world a very important reality of the border, which is that the border isn’t a desolate place where no one lives." "This is a world where women live and children live and that we can use play as a kind of vehicle for activism."

"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," said Fratello.

( with inputs from AP )

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