Crossing: Border Station Studio

Crossing: Border Station Studio The US General Services Administration has a mandate to accelerate the delivery of new border stations along the US borders with Canada and Mexico. This demand for accelerated delivery has challenged the design-bid-build strategy currently by the GSA, motivating their interest in exploring in this studio alternative design strategies that might promote componentized designs, prototypical designs, and/or prefabricated construction. Border stations, or Land Ports of Entry, are operated by Customs and Border Protection, the nation\’s largest law enforcement organization, whose mission, paraphrased, is to prevent terrorists from entering the country and to enforce hundreds of US trade and immigration regulations, while, at the same time, facilitating cross border trade and travel. Increased international trade due to NAFTA, the construction of the CANAMEX corridor, and other economic pressures, combined with increasing global population mobility create intense pressure to facilitate rates of entry into the US. At the same time, international terror threats and increased trade in illegal substances challenge border security. This combined with new security technologies have created an imperative for new and improved port infrastructure.International borders take many forms, ranging from the abstract to the heavily fortified, depending on the political economic and social context of each border. At 5520 miles, the US border with Canada is the longest common international border. Approximately 80 million visitors at the northern border are processed each year. Ports at populated areas along the northern border can bisect established communities. Businesses, families, and sometimes buildings, straddle the border. The ease of passage, taken for granted by residents for many years, will be formalized as new security measures are established. Remote border stations, many located in the vast stretch of the border across the Great Plains, contend with harsh climates and distant from population centers resulting in higher construction, maintenance and operating costs. The southern US border with Mexico although far shorter, just under 2000 miles. The ports along this border contend with equally harsh climate and remote sites. Further, economic disparities along the border increase both legal and illegal immigration. Heavy commercial traffic from Mexican agricultural growers combined with illegal drug trade further complicate the port\’s dual mission to assure port security and to facilitate trade. Wait times for agricultural workers of up to two hours in extreme temperatures raise humanitarian concerns. These political, social, economic and site differences challenge standardization of border station design but offer opportunities for design innovation. Students are encouraged to rethink the border station from the perspective of these and other challenges that they might bring.Border station designs must also accommodate varied traffic volumes of each port. Commercial and private vehicles, trains, buses, bicycles and pedestrians all cross the borders for each port and each require different inspection procedures. Depending on the volumes and types of goods passing through the port, agencies other than Customs and Border Protection, such as the Department of Agriculture or the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services.Given such a variation in sites and program, our challenge is to design flexible, adaptable design and construction strategies that will address operational issues, accelerate construction, and engage, as the General Services Administration Design Excellence program aspires, \’the finest in contemporary American architectural thought.\’To begin to frame critical design issues faced by all port designs, the following challenges are raised. Central to the concept of the borde