In 2019 a collection of bright pink seesaws allowed people to interact over the US-Mexico border. The Teeter Totter Wall sat no longer than 30 minutes across El Paso in Texas and Ciudad Juárez in Mexico, but was enough to win the 2020 Beazley Design of the Year award from the Design Museum in London. Virginia San Fratello, associate professor of design at San Jose State, and her husband, Ronald Rael, professor of architecture at UC Berkeley, first came up with the idea back in 2009 after the Secure Fence Act 2006, which started large-scale building on the border.
With then-President Donald Trump’s drive to erect a wall along the nation’s southern border with Mexico, the teeter totter wall idea became a reality. When installed, children and adults from both sides of the border came together to play in what was described as a “unifying act.” Rael said in an Instagram post that the event was “filled with joy, excitement, and togetherness at the border wall.” San Fratello and Rael said they hoped the work would encourage people to build bridges in communities, not walls.
The museum’s annual awards recognize projects that have made a real-world impact in the areas of digital, fashion, graphic and product design as well as transport and architecture. Rael and Fratello’s work was considered among 74 shortlisted projects that included Tik Tok’s viral Renegade dance, edible drink capsules that replaced plastic bottles at the London Marathon, and a 3D graphic of the coronavirus particle.