The Arquine International Architecture Competition has been held since 1998 and aims to explore issues of significance and relevance for society as a whole, foster new platforms for dialogue and promote the involvement of architects in responding to specific problems, while encouraging local and international competition and participation. Over time it has become one of the design competitions in the field of architecture with the broadest scope and reach. Last year over 420 teams from 22 countries around the world sent proposals. On this occasion Arquine addresses an issue of timeless importance that will open up new possibilities of discussion, with an open, international call for entries for the design of the threshold between Tijuana and San Ysidro: the transit point that responds to the programmatic needs of those who cross the border here. At the same time it should be viewed as a point of reference of a monumental nature for the busiest border in the world.
According to the May 2013 report by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), every year 13,672,329 automobiles cross the border at the Tijuana - San Ysidro border crossing—double the number of cars on the streets of Sao Paulo and four times the number in Mexico City—while the total number of passengers they convey amounts to 34,180,000—almost equal to the population of Canada. On average they take 45 minutes to cross, according to a study by the Business Advisory Board of Tijuana. Meanwhile, the number of border crossings made on foot totals 9 million individuals. As a result the zone is constantly bustling with activity, occupied by different kinds of people—those who cross, those who wish to cross and those who have failed to cross—an accumulation of people who occupy the space on a practically permanent basis, in a perennial state of indefinite waiting. Meanwhile, the State appears unable to solve the lack of clarity in migration issues, or provide the minimum conditions of security and protection the location demands.
Nevertheless, “The continued presence of the twin phenomena, migration and tourism, endow the busiest border crossing in the world with a unique and unprecedented permanence.” It is for this reason that the development of a threshold site is proposed as a signal of a change in thinking. The Threshold of the Americas should be of a dichotomous character, as both a place to remain and to transit at once. It should be a dwelling-place for migrants, regardless of their condition, whether they are entering, leaving or waiting. It should also be a reference point for tourists who explore this space, replete with similar and contradictory signals. Finally, it should serve as a support structure for residents on both Mexican and U.S. sides of the border. Arquine is calling for entries to design an architectural intervention at this emblematic point on the continent, with the design of a center providing support and assistance to emigrants and immigrants, a space understood both as a landmark and a bridge that contributes to the urban recovery of the zone and becomes a reference point on the busiest border in the world.
There are three fundamental aspects to the program. Firstly, the social conditions of the location, given the high level of emigration and immigration, the ease of access to drugs, and the need to incorporate policies of social integration and to guarantee minimum rights. Secondly, the condition of transit, given crossing the border is the principal action undertaken in the zone, and the high volumes of vehicles and pedestrians that cross here make for highly specific conditions that are unique in the world. Thirdly, the need to define this specific point as a crossing and entrance worthy of its condition as a gateway to the country and to the continent. These aspects serve to define a significant part of the program, where the project’s condition as a marker in the landscape will be fundamental and the specific areas to be designed must be adjusted to fit a freeform layout that needs to reflect the above premises and the understanding of the site and its general context.
The areas to be designed include a series of proposed spaces that should act as triggers to the development and improvement of the site, while complementing the uses and activities set out in the Strategic Metropolitan Plan 2034. The proposed areas for this support and assistance center are:
- Classrooms for workshops
- Auditorium (150 seats)
- Library / Audio-visual library
- Web browsing, reading and consultation room
- Open-air forum
- Public washrooms
- Administrative offices
The specific area set aside for this intervention and a number of site analysis details are presented in the technical section of this document.
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