Border Town

[Image: Photo by m.joedicke, via Border Town].

From Border Town, an independent research and design workshop to be held in Toronto this summer, from 16 June-18 August, now seeking applications:
Your farm is completely surrounded by a foreign country because the king lost it in a game of cards. You live in Cooch Behar.

You are eating at a café when you are informed that it must close. If you’ll just shift to a table in the other country, service is still available. This café is in Baarle/Hertog.

You work in the mayor’s office. Down the hall is a parallel mayor’s office with a whole mirror set of city officials to govern the other half of your city. You work in Texarkana.

We believe that a great deal can be learned by investigating the strange edge cases of the world. Border towns are the extreme edge of where geography and politics collide. They throw the abstractions of governance into sharp physical relief. They are a fertile site for investigation into questions of security, freedom, architecture, immigration, trade, smuggling, sovereignty, and identity.

Border Town is a 10-week, multi-participant collaborative design studio that will investigate the conditions that surround life in cities situated on borders, divided by borders, or located in conflict zones. By investigating these strange specimens of political geography, we can being to think and design about the interaction of legal and physical architecture and how these forces shape the built environment and the lives of the people living in it.
The workshop is organized by Tim Maly and Emily Horne, and applications are due by 2 June.

By way of my own hypothetical reading list for such a course, I might suggest checking out a few of the following books: The City & The City by China Miéville, Divided Cities: Belfast, Beirut, Jerusalem, Mostar, and Nicosia by Jon Calame and Esther Charlesworth, Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture of Occupation by Eyal Weizman, City of Walls: Crime, Segregation, and Citizenship in São Paulo by Teresa P. R. Caldeira, Divided Kingdom by Rupert Thomson, A Wall in Palestine by René Backmann, and any number of other books, films, essays, and chapters elsewhere on the subjects of smuggling, demilitarized zones, police jurisdiction, international espionage, the Berlin Wall, the Jewish ghetto, quarantine, border survey teams (and the equipment they utilize), segregation and apartheid, political gerrymandering, micronations, and much more.

In any case, Border Town promises to be an interesting experience for all involved—and I should add that it's great to see people putting together this kind of independent educational workshop outside of the university system. If you end up being one of the participants, I'd love to hear how it goes.

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Blogger todd said...

you should definitely add karl schroeder's story 'to hie from far cilenia' from the first metatropolis anthology. that takes the idea of a border town to one extreme.

May 06, 2011 11:25 PM  
Anonymous aborham said...

of relevance:

May 06, 2011 11:41 PM  
Blogger Brian Davis said...

Nice. as a current angeleno (you, not me), I'd be interested in your take on Southern California's situation re border towns. Been working through Mike Davis' stuff, who you keep good tabs on it seems. In magical urbanism he claims that each frontier/border situations is utterly exceptional and unique, which suggests comparisons will be difficult. Possibly interesting, possibly a failure. I like it.

May 08, 2011 3:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

im surprized you`ve never mentioned Tijuana/ San Diego as a border conditioned city, this city in my opinion is the best example of the border city.

May 08, 2011 8:22 PM  
Blogger Brenna said...

I would add "The Other Side of the River" by Alex Kotlowitz to your reading list.

May 09, 2011 10:24 AM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

Thanks for the tips and suggestions re: border reading.

Faslanyc, I've written a bit about border tunnels as emergent border condition, vis-a-vis Subtopia and things like that, but I have not actually spent much time near the border (at least in a direct, geographical sense). I'll have to remedy that someday...

May 10, 2011 3:20 PM  
Anonymous AnthonyA said...

Another for the list: Twin Rivers Paper Company, one of the few truely international companies. One half of the paper mill sits on the Canadian side of the border, the other half on the USA side.

May 10, 2011 4:36 PM  
Anonymous Cynthia said...

Are you familiar with the "Bordertown" series of fantasy books for teenagers?

It's an interesting way to get kids thinking about border issues. Check out the "teacher's guide" page on the website:

May 16, 2012 3:17 AM  

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