Seesaws Installed on U.S.-Mexico Border Wall Allow People on Both Sides to Play Together


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One of the most incredible experiences of my and @vasfsf’s career bringing to life the conceptual drawings of the Teetertotter Wall from 2009 in an event filled with joy, excitement, and togetherness at the borderwall. The wall became a literal fulcrum for U.S. – Mexico relations and children and adults were connected in meaningful ways on both sides with the recognition that the actions that take place on one side have a direct consequence on the other side. Amazing thanks to everyone who made this event possible like Omar Rios @colectivo.chopeke for collaborating with us, the guys at Taller Herrería in #CiudadJuarez for their fine craftsmanship, @anateresafernandez for encouragement and support, and everyone who showed up on both sides including the beautiful families from Colonia Anapra, and @kerrydoyle2010, @kateggreen , @ersela_kripa , @stphn_mllr , @wakawaffles, Chris Gauthier and many others (you know who you are). #raelsanfratello #borderwallasarchitecture

A post shared by Ronald Rael (@rrael) on

The U.S.-Mexico border wall is topic of near-constant conversation in the news today, particularly how it divides people of the two countries. But thanks to two professors in California, the wall has become a brief way to unify those on both sides of it. Ronald Rael, an architecture professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and Virginia San Fratello, an associate professor of design at San Jose State, conceived of a series of seesaws slotted between the slats of the border wall and used the division as the fulcrum for the pieces of playground equipment. Folks on either side were then invited to bop up and down—putting themselves face-to-face with someone in another country.

Rael and Fratello created the concept for their project, aptly called Teetertotter Wall, in 2009. At that time, Rael had written the book Borderwall as Architecture, and its cover features a drawing of the teetertotter. Although it took a decade for the idea to come to fruition, because of the current border crisis, it arrives at just the right moment. The neon pink seesaws were brought to Sunland Park, New Mexico and then slid through the fence where they met people in Colonia Anapra, Mexico. There was no advanced planning for the event, but everything went smoothly with adults and children joining in the fun.

Rael shared the incredible event via Instagram, and it highlights how the simple act of play can yield such profound experiences. “The wall became a literal fulcrum for U.S.-Mexico relations,” he wrote, “and children and adults were connected in meaningful ways on both sides with the recognition that the actions that take place on one side have a direct consequence on the other side.”

Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello created Teetertotter Wall, which utilized the Mexico and New Mexico border wall as a fulcrum for bright pink seesaws.


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A post shared by Virginia San Fratello (@vasfsf) on

Sliding the teetertotter between the slats of the wall, they invited people on both sides to take a turn on it. In doing so, they had fun and connected with each other in meaningful ways.


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A post shared by Ronald Rael (@rrael) on

Ronald Rael: Website | Instagram
Virginia San Fratello: Website | Instagram
h/t: [People]

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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