February 24th, 2017

Got an idea for the design of the border wall?

If you do, you can enter the competition, which begins soon:

The Dept. of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) intends on issuing a solicitation in electronic format on or about March 6, 2017 for the design and build of several prototype wall structures in the vicinity of the United States border with Mexico. The procurement will be conducted in two phases, the first requiring vendors to submit a concept paper of their prototype(s) by March 10, 2017, which will result in the evaluation and down select of offerors by March 20, 2017. The second phase will require the down select of phase 1 offerors to submit proposals in response to the full RFP by March 24, 2017, which will include price. Multiple awards are contemplated by mid-April for this effort. An option for additional miles may be included in each contract award.

It should be interesting to see what emerges.

But that’s not the first “design a wall” competition that’s been held, although I do believe it’s the first sponsored by the government. However, an alternative wall contest was sponsored by these folks:

… a group of architects, designers and artists to initiate thought-provoking and meaningful competitions that are of an interdisciplinary nature…

The announcement of the Competition sparked considerable controversy. Many assumed it endorsed then presidential candidate Donald Trump’s call to build a border wall to keep out illegal immigrants. Its purpose, however, was to elicit serious discussion about the very idea of a border wall. One of the questions proposed by the challenge: “Is the idea patently ridiculous on a purely practical and moral basis?” Entrants were invited to contemplate the deeper issues of a border wall and, indeed, even propose alternatives.

The winners got cash prizes. A sampler of the proposals:

1st Prize (Tie)—Anticipating the eventual exhaustion of the essential resource of water along the U.S.-Mexico border, an “irrigation wall” would draw water from the Gulf of Mexico, the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean, desalinate it and flow it into a channel running the length of border. Possible benefits could include re-vegetation of the desert, creation of agricultural operations on either side of the channel and new bilateral treaty governing the distribution and use of the water between the two countries.

1st Prize (Tie)—Rejecting the current wall as “a fetishized object,” Inflatoborder is a system of flexible bubbles that perform a variety of functions meant to bring communities on either side of the existing wall together. Air pressure is adjusted according to need—creating a canopy, for instance, that shelters roadside markets where it runs through agricultural lands, or creating “play area” enclosures for families and children in densely populated urban centers straddling the border.

2nd Prize—Also rejecting the idea of a fixed wall that divides nations and people, this plan proposes a bi-national park running the length of the border that is “a symbol against difference” where people from both sides can camp, hike and engage in other outdoor activities.

3rd Prize—This proposal, called “Across,” was inspired by Paul Rudolph’s Manhattan Expressway and builds “on architecture’s more social and humanistic intentions” by creating “a flexible membrane which has the capacity to take on programs that are both needed and shared by the inhabitants on either side of the border.”

I am pretty certain that the designers were well aware that these projects won’t come to fruition. They are exercises in imagination (“imagination” in the John Lennon “Imagine” sense). Unrealistic, of course.

Artists might say that our dreams help to create reality. I say that there’s very much of a limit as to how far that can go in the real world, before it meets up with—a wall. To pretend that the situation doesn’t exist, and that problems can be wished away by “symbols against difference” is something pretty rampant on the left. I’m not sure whether the entrants in that contest really believed this, or whether it’s just an exercise in showing what wonderful people they are in addition to what wonderful designers.

The last design competition I remember paying much attention to was the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in DC. The design that was chosen—initially controversial—really did end up having a healing, “bringing together” effect. But the architecture of memorials is a very different proposition, utterly symbolic in nature. A border wall is not a memorial. It is functional, although the functional can be designed with esthetics and psychology in mind, too. But my guess is that whatever ends up being approved will be primarily practical—although remember that Trump himself said that the wall will be “beautiful.”

We’ll see.

39 Responses to “Got an idea for the design of the border wall?”

  1. Cornhead Says:

    Winning submissions were a complete joke. Too bad their jobs can’t be replaced by illegal aliens working at a 50% discount to their compensation.

  2. Ann Says:

    I think it’s a big mistake to call it a “wall”. Too many bad associations historically with that term — the reason Israel takes great pains to call its security barrier on the West Bank a “fence”.

  3. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    I propose a 3 ft high white picket vinyl fence. End all benefits for non-citizens. No drivers licenses for illegals. 10 year mandatory federal felony conviction and imprisonment with no early parole for any employer of more than 2 illegals.

    No jobs + no benefits = self-deportation…

  4. Ray Says:

    It shouldn’t take much of a wall. Every Mexican that can run, jump or swim is already here. That only leaves the non athletes to keep out.

  5. DNW Says:

    “Got an idea for the design of the border wall?”

    Miles of these; giant sized, and planted side by side.

    Or, if that seems too harsh then this with a tunnel funnel center leading to Barbara Streisand’s House

    Or failing all else miles of these fake signs stung along the border.

  6. M J R Says:

    Now that we’re back on the subject, . . .

    “Good fences make good neighbors.”
    — Robert Frost, “Mending Wall”


    He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
    My apple trees will never get across
    And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
    He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors’.
    Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
    If I could put a notion in his head:
    ‘Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
    Where there are cows?
    But here there are no cows.
    Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
    What I was walling in or walling out,
    And to whom I was like to give offence.
    Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
    That wants it down.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him,
    But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
    He said it for himself. I see him there
    Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
    In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
    He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
    Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
    He will not go behind his father’s saying,
    And he likes having thought of it so well
    He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

  7. David Aitken Says:

    Plant Saguaro Cactus or something similar on the Mexico side of the wall.

  8. Montage Says:

    How about one long mural that has images of dollar bills burning?

  9. OM Says:

    Those who in jest suggest bug zappers should consider

    “The SM-70 (Splittermine Modell 1970) was an East German directional antipersonnel mine developed specifically to combat “Republikflucht” (defection) across the Inner German Border (Grenze) into West Germany

    They were aimed parallel with the fence line, and intended to kill or incapacitate anyone attempting to climb or cut through the fence.”


    After all why reinvent the wheel?

    I hope it was macabre humor.

    But then again maybe Christo can come up with an artistic solution, oops, Hillary lost, scratch that.

  10. Ymarsakar Says:

    Trum can build the wall, or outsource it to somebody else to do, but will Mexico pay for it?

  11. OM Says:

    David Aitken:

    The “jumping cholla” cactus is particularly nasty and native to parts of the area; you learn to watch out for it and avoid it after your first surprise.

    “The “jumping cholla” name comes from the ease with which the stems detach when brushed. Often the merest touch will leave a person with bits of cactus hanging on their clothes to be discovered later when either sitting or leaning on them.”


  12. Cornhead Says:

    The constant complaining by the MSM about Mexico paying for the wall drives me nuts. Mexico isn’t going to write us a check. Trump is going to tax remittances to Mexico or enact some other tax. Or cut foreign aid. Mexico will pay for it indirectly. It will be like a real estate closing. That’s always been the plan.

  13. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Mexico receives over 23 BILLION a year from people in the US. Much of that is illegally obtained. A miniscule tax upon those funds will easily pay for a white picket fence.

  14. parker Says:

    Stout fences in key areas, more border patrol agents, electronic detection measures, and drones. Swift and serious consequences for anyone above the age of 12 caught entering illegally. As mentioned above a stiff tax on remittances going to Latin America and heavy fines for employers who fail to verify the legal status of their employees.

    And of course, enforce our current laws. That should be a no brainer as illegals by law may not receive any form of social assistance. Finally, treat States and cities defying federal immigration laws with a total cut off of federal funds. Let them pay for their own roads, schools, etc.

  15. The Other Chuck Says:

    A week or two ago I was flipping channels on SiriusXM car radio and stopped dead on what was a magnificent recording of Beethoven’s 9th. I pulled over and parked to listen without car noise, it was that good. The 4th movement chorus was especially beautiful. It was so full of life it brought tears. After the applause ended, the announcer said it was the 1989 Bernstein Freedom Concert performance in Berlin shortly after the Berlin Wall was breached, and 10 months before the great conductor’s death. Bernstein had changed the word “Joy” to “Freedom” in Schiller’s verse.

    Bernstein on the 9th:

     “In this Ninth Symphony, in the finale, the music goes far beyond the [Schiller’s] poem, it gives far greater dimension and vital energy and artistic sparks to these quaint old lines of Schiller. This music succeeds, even with those people for whom organized religion fails. Because it displays a spirit of Godhead and sublimity in the freest and least doctrinaire way. It has a purity and directness of communication that never becomes banal. It’s accessible without being ordinary. This is the magic that no amount of talk can explain.”

    “Perhaps there was in Beethoven the man, a child inside that never grew up, that to the end of his life remained a creature of grace, innocence and trust, even in his moments of greatest despair. And that innocent spirit speaks to us of hope and future and immortality. And it’s for that reason that we love his music now, more than ever before. In this time of world agony, we love his music and we need it. As despairing as we may be, we cannot listen to this Ninth Symphony without emerging from it changed, enriched, encouraged. And to the man who could give to the world so precious a gift as this, no honor could be too great, and no celebration joyful enough. It’s almost like celebrating the birthday of music itself.”

    When I finished listening that day the thought came to mind, what kind of music, what great symphony do you perform when you build a wall?

  16. Brian E Says:

    “When I finished listening that day the thought came to mind, what kind of music, what great symphony do you perform when you build a wall?”

    Something by Wagner

  17. Cornhead Says:


    Sirius is the best.

  18. Chester Draws Says:

    There have been numerous secure border walls in the past, and present day. They are ALL backed up by lots of people with guns prepared to shoot.

    The East Germans weren’t kept out of West Germany by the wall. The wall was just to slow them down so they could be shot. Likewise the Israeli “fence” isn’t holding anyone back unless backed up by the military (or armed militias).

    Trump’s wall won’t stop anyone much unless backed up by people prepared to shoot. And that will really cost. The Iron Curtain and Israeli Fence were/are absurdly expensive.

    If you want to keep illegal immigrants out, then you need to stop giving them jobs and letting them into schools. That is what they are in the US for. Any who won’t self-deport once unemployed or out of school is going to be actually criminal, and can be dealt with by police in the same way as usual criminals.

    A prosecution for every person employing an illegal, or enrolling an illegal in a school, would sort the problem out in a very short time. But like the “war on drugs”, the US government won’t really go after the largely White customers.

  19. F Says:

    Wagner? Remember Mark Twain’s comment about Wagner: “his music is better than it sounds.”

  20. OM Says:


    I really wonder where you get your statements from. I wonder why you mix walls designed to keep people who are intent on mayhem out (Palestinian terrorists (aka “freedom fighters exercising the right of return” /sarc) with borders (walls, fences with mines, kill zones) designed to keep people in. But I guess a border is a border is a border to you? Last time I checked the US Mexico border is does not have dead zones, mine fields or the other features of the Soviet Block States. I’m pretty sure President Trump doesn’t intend those features either. Regarding incentives and services that are provided to illegal aliens. well that has been brought about by the judicial branch of our government, or you may correct me. PS it isn’t like the War on Drugs. W

  21. parker Says:

    The Other Chuck,

    “…what great symphony do you perform when you build a wall?”

    I suggest Beethoven’s 6th.

  22. OM Says:


    And regarding the Israeli fence/wall: it does seem to have prevented splodeydopes from walking in and killing Israeli citizens. Now it is stabby/slashy dopes and run-em-down with auto dopes. But hey it is expensive to keep dopes from doing what dopes will do. Why is that I wonder? Why oh why do the dopes dig tunnels now? Is that more expensive for dopes when they used to just walk in mingle and ‘splode?

  23. Chester Draws Says:

    Way to get exactly the wrong message OM.

    Trump’s wall won’t have kill zones. That’s precisely why it will be useless.

    And if people get through the Israeli wall, with all its guards, what chance does Trump’s have of working? You’re making my point for me.

    As for a border being a border. Well yes. I’d use examples of peaceful attempts if there were any. But no-one else has been stupid enough to spend money like that on something that won’t work. So I have to use the examples we have.

  24. AesopFan Says:

    Cornhead Says:
    February 24th, 2017 at 8:04 pm
    The constant complaining by the MSM about Mexico paying for the wall drives me nuts. Mexico isn’t going to write us a check. Trump is going to tax remittances to Mexico or enact some other tax. Or cut foreign aid. Mexico will pay for it indirectly. It will be like a real estate closing. That’s always been the plan.
    * * *
    Some years ago – 20 or more, when I first began thinking about the problems created by failing to deal with illegal alien, um, problems – it seemed blindingly obvious to me that the US should just tell Mexico that we would deduct a certain amount of money from the appropriated aid package (why were we sending money to Mexico anyway, when we had to borrow it all from China in the first place?) for every one of their nationals living illegally in America.
    That Congress was unwilling to even make the suggestion told me right then that the majority had no interest in solving the problem, because they didn’t see any of the negative consequences as problems for themselves.

  25. OM Says:


    The use of concertina wire on the Hungarian border has cut the immigration of “Syrian” refugees to 1/5 of the previous rate. They don’t have mines or kill zones either. You have to work with what tools are available, changing the physical border and immigration policies are one step. Addressing incentives and judicially mandated benefits takes longer.

  26. The Other Chuck Says:

    parker, Beethoven’s Pastoral 6th isn’t appropriate for building a wall – it’s more in line with Geoffrey Britain’s picket fence, or a birdbath.

    Brian E, yes Wagner seems the perfect ticket. Maybe something from Tristan und Isolde or The Flight of the Valkyries?

  27. OM Says:


    I don’t think you understand what the word “useless” means. Hint: it doesn’t mean perfect, impenetrable.

  28. OM Says:

    The Soviet Block border between client states and the West wasn’t peaceful. Cold War remember. Israel’s border with Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, or with the West Bank isn’t a peaceful stroll in the park. Any other points you want to illustrate?

  29. parker Says:


    Well, I favor tight border surveillance and orders to shoot to kill all entering illegally.

    Ripley: “Its the only way to be sure.”

  30. OM Says:


    Should the US pay the immigrant’s gas/train/bus and any other expenses from their point of departure to their preferred destination, since after all, it would be less expensive than whatever the non-perfect alternative could be?

  31. Chester Draws Says:

    I don’t have all the solution OM. If there were easy solution there wouldn’t be a problem .

    But expensive gestures like the wall are exactly that — gestures.

    I would suggest that paying for illegals to leave is a good idea. It seems wrong, but the perfect is the enemy of the good.

    Realistically, the US if it stopped illegals it would need to import millions of them as legals. The economy can’t take 10 milion workers decamping. A system where they were more able to work seasonally, like the Swiss do, would help.

  32. Hangtown Bob Says:

    Mexico charges a fee to all tourists and business visitors arriving in the country. The fee is approximately US$22, and the money collected is passed to the Tourist Ministry to promote Mexican tourism.

    I propose that the U.S. charge a $25/person fee for all non-U.S. citizens entering the country for any reason. For those living near the border and comuting to jobs in the U.S., this wil get their attention. Also, commercial traffic entry fees should range from $100 to $1000 depending on size and weight of vehicle.

  33. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    The Flight of the Valkyries is what you get when invaders are unopposed. It’s their favorite tune.

    “I would suggest that paying for illegals to leave is a good idea.” Chester Draws

    Sigh. After we paid them to leave, what’s to dissuade them from returning for another bribe? But thank you for establishing the quality of your thinking.

  34. OM Says:


    I wasn’t clear in my hypothetical worst case conjecture. The proposal (farce) was to pay all the expenses of the illegal immigrants from their point of departure (home country) to their preferred destination (Sanctuary city/state) in the USA (or even NZ since were only talking money after all). It was not to pay for their trip back to the home country (place of birth). I apologize for my imprecision, I’m no Ben Rhodes. But you missed the point entirely and proposed an ever bigger farce as Geoffrey has noted.

  35. Yankee Says:

    There’s a lot to be said for a structure that is more like a fence, as opposed to a wall. A fence can be a heavy-duty barrier to keep people out, and yet it has the useful aspect of being able to see through it, to deal with whatever issues may arise.

    For what this could look like, see this web-page:

    And it’s more important to understand that any wall will also be symbolic and metaphorical, not necessarily literal. This is how you deal with all the nay-sayers who have nothing to do but find criticism, and say that it can’t be done, so we shouldn’t even try.

    President Trump’s rhetoric itself is part of a metaphorical wall: his announced policy changes, and his use of words, discourages entry into the U.S. Compare that to Mr. Obama, whose words had the opposite effect of encouraging entry and immigration. A metaphorical wall also includes the effective use of various federal agencies to screen, find, and send back home all illegal aliens.

    Other components of a “wall” include screening and discouragement of the employment of illegal aliens, increased federal-state cooperation (and this is done with many other laws besides immigration laws), and selective prosecution of immigration scoff-laws to send a message. All of this would result in reducing illegal aliens through attrition, and others choosing to self-deport in many cases.

    This is why Mr. Trump wins, because he thinks outside the box, and because his supporters take him seriously, not literally.

  36. Yankee Says:

    The geography of the U.S.-Mexico border is quite varied in places, and so there are lots of options for building different sorts of “walls.” One of these could include the use of simple earthworks: just a big ditch, and making a berm, to keep people out. These are also known as dykes, a “big, beautiful dyke,” as President Trump might say.

    For an historical example, see this 8th century barrier between Anglo-Saxon England and Britonic Wales:

    A big ditch can slow intruders down, and channel them into areas where they are more easily caught. And it can be cheap, ahead of schedule and under budget, as Mr. Trump could say. (Of course, there will be the inevitable protestors chaining themselves to the construction equipment, or throwing themselves in front of vehicles, but that can be dealt with.)

  37. Lizzy Says:

    This is the best design I’ve seen, and looks like it would be a snap to build, LOL:


  38. The Other Chuck Says:

    How do you not take a man literally and at the same time take him seriously? Almost his every utterance contradicts a previous statement, or qualifies it, or embellishes it, or amplifies it to the point of farce. He fires or withdraws from appointment the staunchest advocates at the drop of a hat and hires newbies whose policies are diametrically opposite those he purports to advocate. In the 1st month of office.

    How do support a man without an ideology who deals in floating abstractions, and who seems to think that bluster and rallies are a cover for serious thought and realistic proposals? The fact that he’s made a number of good appointments may give him somewhat of a pass, for now. As a practical matter however, those people like Tillerson who are coming to the rescue were in all likelihood recruited by Priebus. Others like Admiral Harward don’t want any part of such an unstable, fly by the seat of its pants administration.

    As to the wall and its design, I wouldn’t be surprised if Neo is having some fun with the whole thing. Oh yes, lets have a contest to design a wall to keep people out, or in – depending on the nature of future administrations. Shall it be an architectural gem of beauty, or strictly functional like the design of most prisons? Will it have guard posts and manned turrets? Will the top be laced with razor wire? Is there to be a place for armed drones that can chase down and zap the occasional stray intruder? How about built in heat seeking laser weapons, or would that interfere with border ranchers and their livestock? And where do you build it, on the actual border or back a piece to allow for warning signs and other paraphernalia like strategically placed gibbets? Should it have a 2,000 mile long sound system that can blast 9 decibel warnings in Spanish, Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, etc.?
    Peligro! Detener o Te Dispararán!

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favor of stopping illegal immigration. But it’s the job of our congress to pass laws that make illegals unwelcome, laws that would exclude ANY government assistance from education to medical, that would severely fine those who hire the undocumented, and that in the end would make a border wall superfluous. A border wall won’t do anything about visa overstays. It won’t help track those already here illegally. It won’t streamline the deportation process. It won’t amend the very flawed refugee scam. Nor will it do anything about the anchor baby problem nor the problem of thousands and thousands of family members gaining most favored immigration status based on a single legal established immigrant.

    What the wall will do is give the left a giant symbol to rally against and a perfect opportunity to point out the hypocrisy of a party whose patron saint, Ronald Reagan, gave the defining speech of his presidency railing against.
    Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

    For those who say this is like one of Obama’s false equivalent memes, that our wall is meant to keep us safe not only from hoards of economic refugees and drug dealers but also terrorist infiltrators, you are all wet – without swimming the Rio Grande. The terrorists on 9/11 didn’t need to infiltrate an open border. Drug dealers and manufacturers exist within our country and sealing the border will give only moderate success against a problem that is homegrown. Ahem. No, what a giant border wall will do is announce to whole world our pathetic inability to manage and deal with problems of our own creation and exhibit full force that this is a country divided against itself.

  39. Ymarsakar Says:

    “Hillary would be in jail if I was President” guess who said that.

    Those that put their trust in man, are worse than fools, they are doomed and cursed.

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