Teeter Totter Wall: Pink seesaws at US and Mexico border awarded Design of the Year

The 2019 installation has been recognised for its 'symbolic importance' by London's Design Museum

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The Teeter Totter Wall, a trio of bright pink seesaws installed between the US and Mexico border, has been named Design of the Year 2020.

Created by architecture studio Rael San Fratello in July 2019, the installation allowed children on both sides of the border to play with the seesaws, despite being divided by a metal bars that comprise the wall.

The prestigious Design of the Year award, also known as Beazley Designs of the Year, is organised by London’s Design Museum.

Though the Teeter Totter Wall project was brief – the installation was only up for 40 minutes – it was seen by judges as “symbolically important”. Razia Iqbal, a chairperson for the Design Museum judges, noted that the work “talked about the possibility of things; that all kinds of things are possible when people come together with great ideas and determination".

A mexican soldier walks in front of American and Mexican families playing with a toy called "up and down" (Seesaw swing) over the Mexican border with US at the Anapra zone in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua State, Mexico on July 28, 2019. (Photo by LUIS TORRES / AFP)
A Mexican soldier walks in front of families on the US-Mexico border. AFP

The work had been more than a decade in the making. The idea came to Ronald Rael, an architecture professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and Virginia San Fratello, a design professor at San Jose State University, after the passing of the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which authorised the construction of hundreds of kilometres of fencing along the border.

Set up in El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico, Rael and San Fratello worked with a Mexican community collective to secretly assemble the seesaws and avoid the watchful eye of border patrol.

The installation gained international attention when they were unveiled, particularly in light of the Trump administration’s efforts to erect more border walls and his controversial migration separation policies.

The use of the colour pink was also significant, referring to the femicide memorials in Juarez.

Five other winners were awarded under the categories of architecture, digital, fashion, graphics and product. Among them was Impossible Foods, which won the product category for its development of the Impossible Burger 2.0, and Telfar under fashion for its design of the Telfar Bag, a vegan leather bag.

The graphics prize went to Alissa Eckert and Dan Higgins, who designed the 3D rendering of Sars-Cov-2, the image that shows the coronavirus with its grey spherical body and bright red spikes. The rendering was commissioned by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as way to enlighten people on the pandemic.

"Eckert and Higgins give the virus a beautiful yet threatening form," the Design Museum said.

The People's Choice went to brick arches made by protesters leading the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. The simple structures, made from stacking ordinary bricks together to form an arch, were used as roadblocks against police vehicles.