This project explores an architecture of borders. Borders are not merely abstract lines, but places with real people and real problems. Two artists who worked and lived across the contested border of Mexico and the U.S., Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keeffe, have acted as creative muses to design a centre for women in the conurbation of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez. The goal is to offer a critical reimagining of the border region, allowing women to gain protection and autonomy in a place where their lives is threatened daily. In its essence, the project consists of a garden with multiple communal facilities on the banks of the Rio Grande.
The U.S.-Mexican border is undeniably a politically contentious issue, and currently, the U.S. government does everything in its might to turn people around, especially after President Donald Trump took office. An increasing number of migrants from Latin American countries–many of them women and children–are fleeing climate disasters, oppressive dictatorships and, not least, domestic violence. This thesis project deals with one part of this complex whole: the conditions of the Mexican women adversely affected by the economic, political and societal structures of the border region. The problems are many: families are split apart, when husbands venture to the U.S. in search of work, leaving the women to care for the children; women work in slave-like conditions in the enormous maquiladoras, unable to find other employment; and, Juárez has one of the highest rates of femicides of any city in the world.
I believe that architecture can provide the community, the shelter and the sanctuary that is urgently needed. The heterotopic nature of the garden points not just at the immediate needs of the women, but also at their spirits, their enjoyment, their dreams. The hedonistic reimagining of domestic actions such as cooking, bathing and childcare remove these from the realm of sexism and reintroduce them in a new feminist reality.