Playful seesaw installation at Trump wall wins 2020 Beazley Designs award

The images are captivating. They show smiling children playing on pink seesaws installed across the crude brown steel slats that divides the US/Mexican border – the Trump wall. The interactive installation went up on 28 July 2019 and lasted just 40 minutes before border guards ordered its removal. Then the pictures went viral online. Now ‘Teeter-Totter Wall’ has been awarded the prestigious Beazley Designs of the Year 2020 in the London Design Museum’s annual competition.

‘Teeter-Totter Wall’, designed by architects Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello

The project is a collaboration between the Californian based architects Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello developed from a binational seesaw idea they conceived a decade ago. The duo chose to implement their concept on one of the most politicised border walls of recent times and in the summer of 2019 – at a moment of extreme tension when the world looked on in horror at the outgoing US president’s horrific war on immigration with innocent children at its centre.

With ‘Teeter-Totter Wall’, Rael and San Fratello want to demonstrate that actions taking place on one side of the border have direct consequences on the other – viewing the boundary as a site of severance. Not surprisingly it took a great deal of planning and preparation given the logistics of the projects. Working with Colectivo Chopeke from the other side of the border at Sunland Park, within 20 minutes the three seesaws were slotted into gaps in the steel boundary wall and screwed safely in place. Children on both sides soon jumped on the bicycle seats before the guards removed the installation.

‘Teeter-Totter Wall’, designed by architects Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello

Images strictly © Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello for the Beazley Designs of the Year

Second chance for forgotten spaces

How do you make use of forgotten sites in cities? This was the question raised by the Royal Institute of British Architects in its recent competition Forgotten Spaces where it challenged architects, designers, artists and students to find alternative uses for overlooked spaces in London and Sheffield.







Amongst the highlights includes the Firepits by Studio 3 Hawkins/Brown, an exciting new proposition for Crystal Palace, which caught fire in 1936. The idea is to turn the 1851 Great Exhibition building into a place for celebrating international food and music in a riot of smells and colours – much like what you see in places like the Djeemaa el Fna square in Marrakech.

Jumpers for Goalposts by GRID Architects focuses on a forgotten space in the Eastern Olympic Fringe in East London. Here the architect proposes ‘doorstep’ sports facilities, implemented using quick, low capital cost and low infrastructure methods – their purpose ‘to encourage sports participation, local ownership of space and foster community cohesion’, says the architect.

Moxon Architects has looked at the ?land beneath and adjacent to elevated sections of A40 Westway between Paddington Green and Meanwhile Gardens in West London. WEST_WAY is a proposal to transform this forgotten area by taking advantage of what the architects call ‘glamorous and beautiful existing spaces’ and giving them new functions.

Bee Project by Studiodare Architects is a combined urban park, ‘agroforest’ and bee-keeping aviary promoting a mutual dependency between the community and eco-system in the area between Kempton to Cricklewood Pipetrack. The project offers the potential to create an economic market for the exchange of produce.

Other notable London schemes include artist-inhabited church spires across the City, climbing tunnels in South London’s Clapham, and a project by AP+E in Bethnal Green that involves inhabiting and activating the forgotten rooftops of East London’s council blocks.

In the northern city of Sheffield the shortlisted schemes includes a giant golden frame that floats down the city’s canals, Sheffield’s own version of the Hollywood sign, an urban beach in a city centre car park and a shower block for urban potholers.

‘The range of proposals was particularly impressive and it is clear from the great ideas we saw that people had really had a lot of fun with it,’ says London judge Julia Barfield. ‘The shortlist is a great provocation for everyone to think about the use of space in their local area. The challenge now is to try and realise at least one.’

With 138 submissions in London and 60 in Sheffield it has been one of the largest open ideas competitions of its kind run by the RIBA.

Winners will be announced in the autumn with exhibitions to follow at Somerset House in London and the Crucible in Sheffield. First prize will receive £5,000, second prize £2,000 and third prize £1,000.

The full shortlists for London and Sheffield with galleries are available to view at Forgotten Space London and Forgotten Space Sheffield.

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