A Transitional Community (Healing the Border: El Paso-Cuidad Juarez)

A Transitional Community is a design for an urban greenspace in Ciudad Juarez that aims to mend social and ecological issues on the US/Mexico border. The plan incorporates artificial topographies for environmental protection and programming for work and play.

The theme of the EP Exhibit 2016 is It Takes a Community. Selected projects showcase the best work from young designers highlighting community impact and engagement.

Artificial topographies healing the border/US-Mexico/Section El Paso-Ciudad Juarez

The construction of a physical barrier between the Border of USA and Mexico is a detriment to the ecosystem and welfare of the coexisting economic, cultural and ecological systems. Instead of a creating a massive infrastructural division, the proposal balances the reciprocal players of the community by understanding their economic, cultural and ecologically interweaved relationships.

Understanding the ecosystem

When standing on either side of the border between USA and Mexico, like in the Chihuahuan or Sonoran Desert, it is easy to identify a unique ecosystem comprised of high mountains, parks, wild life sanctuaries, aquifers and special flora and fauna, typical of arid climates. These natural resources are not restricted by man’s borders; however, a physical boundary would directly affect the natural migration of the existing fauna.

The hidden economic force

One of the industries between El Paso and Ciudad Juarez is the Maquiladoras, assembly factories of the border which assemble electronics, automobiles, fabrics, and medical and aerospace units. In some of them, people work in inhumane conditions, in an environment without safety or health. Employers take advantage of undocumented people by keeping them in poor conditions and paying them low salaries, therefore obtaining more profits for themselves. In addition to these conditions, they produce elevated quantities of Co2 polluting the air and water. Today, increasing industrial activities in the area are deteriorating the quality of natural resources affecting people who live and work in the area. El Paso is one of the most contaminated cities in USA because of such industrial activities.

Social equity or balance of benefits

The main reason people cross the border illegally is to find better services, security, and opportunities. The lowest salary in the USA is $7.25/hour in comparison to Mexico's $1-2/hour rate. Due to the lack of balance between the border cities, thousands of people take the risk and cross the border to try and find a better opportunity, even though part of the wall it is already built. Instead of the medieval approach of building a wall with the sole purpose of division, the investment of time and resources can go into an industry that could benefit both cities as an integrated community.


For all these reasons, the proposal for this area is the opposite of a division or barrier; rather, it is the integration of the territory through a master plan were artificial topographies will protect and improve the environment of the region, turning The Maquiladora Industry into a newly green and sustainable concept where employees can work in an appropriate environment. This urban green plan involves other activities like sports and recreation, tourism, and educational facilities that will pacify the area, bringing new opportunities to the community of Ciudad Juarez and becoming an exceptional neighbor to El Paso.

Image credits

A Transitional Community [Healing the Border: El Paso-Cuidad Juarez]

Silvia Izaguirre, Assoc. AIA, and Irma Sifontes Romero, Assoc. AIA

A Transitional Community [Healing the Border: El Paso-Cuidad Juarez]

Silvia Izaguirre, Assoc. AIA, and Irma Sifontes Romero, Assoc. AIA

A Transitional Community [Healing the Border: El Paso-Cuidad Juarez]

Silvia Izaguirre, Assoc. AIA; Irma Sifontes Romero, Assoc. AIA