Story at a glance

  • In July, artists Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello installed three bright pink teeter-totters or see-saws into gaps in the border wall.
  • The art installation has been named the "Design of the Year" by the Design Museum in London.
  • Other winners were also linked to social justice and other humanitarian causes.

For just less than 20 minutes on July 28 last year, the people of El Paso, Texas, and Anapra, Mexico, were no longer separated by the border wall, but united by an installation of three pink see-saws. But the project by Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello made a lasting impression. 

“Thank you very much for this opportunity to collaborate with @rrael and @vasfsf and above all the opportunity to ask the 1% of people with power to end the separation of migrant families and siblings who seek a better life. Migration is a right,” said Colectivo Chopeke, a Catholic community organization engaged in socio-environmental architecture activism that worked with the artists to make the installation possible, in a post.


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The temporary installation was declared the overall winner out of 74 contenders for the Beasley Designs of the Year, which include digital, architecture, transport, graphics, product and fashion design. The winners in seven categories all "contain powerful messages of change and how design can confront some of the difficult issues the world currently faces," said Tim Marlow, director of the Design Museum in London, which hosts the competition. 

"It wasn't just something that felt symbolically important. It talked about the possibility of things and I think that's what moved us and made us feel that all kinds of things are possible when people come together with great ideas and determination,” said Razia Iqbal, a journalist at BBC News and one of seven judges.

The Beazley Designs of the Year – Winners Announcement from Design Museum on Vimeo


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Other nominees included a 3D rendering of the virus causing COVID-19, Lee Ha Jun’s set design from "Parasite" and the union flag stab-proof vest worn by Stormzy at Glastonbury 2019. The Impossible Burger 2.0 and a gender neutral Telfar bag were two of the category winners, along with the Chilean feminist group Colectivo LASTESIS and the brick arches made by protesters in Hong Kong to slow down police vehicles.

“If you believe in this relationship between design and activism and you want to make change, then you take that step to make a statement about the state of affairs," said Rael in a video. "That was part of it and it was scary, but it was important." 

Through their work, Rael and San Fratello have sought to bring awareness to the situation at the border and advocate for the rights of migrants.

“There is a saying in the borderlands, ‘while the border divides, the land unites,'” Rael said on Facebook, sharing a recent project as part of a new initiative celebrating community along the United States and Mexico border. 


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Published on Jan 19, 2021