Ultimately the exclusion of architects from this project points to a larger failure of the profession—that architects lack influence over infrastructure in the United States. Despite both participation and refusal from architects, the RFPs went to businesses that equate imperialism with economic opportunity. If the AIA’s various pledges for a more equitable society are to be taken seriously, and if architects are truly expected “to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public,” architects need to engage in a political fight to demand oversight on infrastructure projects. Speaking out is a start, but it doesn’t enable us to steer infrastructural investment toward housing, hospitals, schools, and other beneficial typologies. If granted oversight on projects such as the southern border wall, architects could deny their labor to great effect, either derailing or terminating the project through protest. To get to that point, however, the profession needs to collectively possess the architectural imagination for a utopia not with a more beautiful, humane, or profitable border infrastructure, but one where it does not exist at all.
James Heard is a worker-owner and architect at uxo architects (@uxoarchitects), a worker-owned California corporation that explores alternative modes of professional practice through the design of spaces for leisure and labor. As a member of The Architecture Lobby, James has helped organize the Los Angeles Chapter, participated in the #NotOurWall and Socializing Small Firms campaigns, and advocated for the value of architectural labor. James currently divides his time between Cambridge, Los Angeles, and Oakland.
How to Cite this Article: Heard, James. “US Customs and Border Protection Agency: Requests for Proposals – The Southern Border Wall (HSBP1017R0022 Solid Concrete Wall Prototype; HSBP1017R0023 Other Border Wall Prototype).” JAE Online. November 27, 2018. http://www.jaeonline.org/articles/reviews-artifacts/us-customs-and-border-protection-agency#/.