Forging a lasting link

Nick Myall
10 Mar 2017

With the Mexican / US Border in the headlines Border City is an integrated masterplan for a binational city spanning both sides of the border

As Donald Trump presses ahead with plans for a huge wall to separate the US and Mexico, FR-EE’s concept for Border City sets out a completely different approach to cross-border relations. It is a vision for a new bi-national development and pro-active response to the increasing urbanization along one of the world’s most important borders, whose border states are now home to over 100m people. The proposal comes at a particularly opportune moment when the issues of immigration, border control, and free trade are being debated around the world, often in provocative and incendiary terms.

FR-EE’s plan imagines a new positive urban border condition—underpinned by sustainable principles, open space, and smart city concepts—that can be a laboratory for bi-national development in the 21st century. Border City is the first integrated masterplan for a binational city conducive to both sides of the border, employing tools of enterprise such as special economic zones to argue for its viability. This new urban prototype, with a hexagonal plan, employs economic, social, cultural and environmental sustainability as urban assets and organizing principles for the proposal’s design.

To give physical form to the concept, the proposal is situated between the three bordering states of New Mexico, Texas and Chihuahua. The completion of the new inland port of Santa Teresa, the I-10 highway connecting the east and west coasts, seven existing border crossings in the area, as well as a new pilot project by U.S. Customs and Border Protection where officials will clear cargo before it leaves manufacturing plants together represent an extraordinary opportunity for innovation at every level of the international supply chain.

A main international axis is the spine for urban development, and a new connection with the Santa Teresa inland port establishes an industrial axis between both countries. The city expands radially to connect communities via central transportation routes that create hexagonal connections between the radial streets to optimize distances. Additional nodes are created to shape the polycentric city with multiple hubs of activity, including research, educational and health centres. To promote walking and connectivity, all residents are within an 8-minute walk of transportation stations. The architecture of the streets is subsequently designed for natural cooling with local vegetation and narrow streets to foster a sense community, activity, and character of the various neighbourhoods.

Sustainable features are integrated into the fabric of the city, with solar farms powering the city grid and solar panels on factory roofs harnessing additional energy. Incentives for the residential use of PV cells in the roofs help promote smaller scale energy collection for homes. The concept’s geometric framework also facilitates efficient treatment, distribution and conservation of water, including plans for the collection of water during short periods of heavy rainfall, collecting it locally to store for later use.

Border City is envisioned as a smart city that integrates multiple information and communication technologies (ICT) and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to manage its assets and further improve quality of life and address issues of security, customs and migration.

Challenging “border situations” are likely to multiply across the world as populations grow, migration increases, and economies continue to globalize. Romero introduces an urban prototype, with a hexagonal plan, that might offer a new model for a rapidly developing world.

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Nick Myall

News editor

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