Location:  El Paso, U.S. / Juárez, México

“Expert consensus has concluded that even brief detention can cause psychological trauma and induce long-term mental health risks for children.” (Linton and others, 2017). 

Architecture of Displacement explores the process of border crossing as an unaccompanied minor refugee entering the United States. The project consists of drawing a reception center that in example eliminates the negative associations with- and experiences of today's processing centers. The aim has been to use architecture as a tool to lessen the trauma inflicted by displacement.

“Here, scenes of flimsy boats filled with individuals, or a country's border marked by fences and guns should not be regarded as challenges to surpass or ignore, but as opportunities to reassess how and why we respond to the circulation of people today .” (Anderson, 2017).

On the outskirts of El Paso, U.S.A, and Juarez, Mexico, the project links together Sunland Park and Anapra. The place becomes a meeting point connecting nature and city, separated by the linear border wall.

The project, which crosses the border, does by that exact action, physically connects the two different environments. This research investigates the transition of, and the differences in what the unaccompanied minors come from as opposed to what they most likely are going to. In addition, the placement has the intention to function as a part of a series of constructions that hopefully, eventually, will dissolve or topple the wall itself.

The need for reception centers for unaccompanied minors varies in great numbers. This variation lays ground for creating a project that is able to transform and adjust to different cultures and traditions, to grow and shrink according to the needs of the time.

The buildings in Architecture of Displacement are arranged around a common central spine that expands and retracts in order to respond to the unaccompanied minors' need to experience spaces step by step, making the spaces both foreseeable and transformative. Traditional architecture of the area has inspired the spatial compositions of both interior and exterior spaces that encourage play and the feeling of safety.

“Play not only provides opportunities for fostering children's curiosity, self-regulation skills, language development, and imagination but also promotes the dyadic reciprocal interactions between children and parents, which is a crucial element of healthy relationships ... Play can serve as an antidote to toxic stress response to return to baseline.”  (Yogman and others, 2018)

“Earth bricks, adobe, is the most used traditional material in the El Paso / Juarez area, and is in addition, also a predominant element of the architecture of the minors 'countries of origin, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.”  (Semik, 2013).

Architecture of Displacement therefore explores the use of rammed earth as an elongation of the traditional adobe and as a recognizable, safe end material for the children.

Thick walls, small openings, look-outs and niches respond to the minors' needs to retract from overwhelming situations, and at the same time respect the desert sun and dusty winds.