Teddy Cruz: I’m Teddy Cruz. I’m an architect and visual artist.
Fonna Forman: I’m Fonna Forman. I’m a political theorist and I teach at the University of California, San Diego.
Teddy Cruz: You’re looking at a model of the Manufactured Sites project we developed in the border region between Tijuana and San Diego
Fonna Forman: These two cities sit side by side but are divided by an international border. New arrivals are traveling north from Central America, seeking access to the US, but being denied entry, which has created a housing crisis. So people in Tijuana are building their houses out of materials that they find around them, recycled tires or recycled garage doors or construction debris.
Teddy Cruz: And in order to organize that waste, we have been working with factories to provide prefabricated metal frames, to support that recycling of waste. So that’s the reason in the model, you see green and yellow metal frames, and some of them have these sort of A-shape as well.
Fonna Forman: Migrants generally settle in very steep canyon hillsides, which are susceptible to landslides every time it rains. And so what the factory parts do is stabilize the houses.
Teddy Cruz: Obviously there is formal architecture, which is being designed deliberately by architects. What we call “informal organization,” is architecture that is built by people with their own resources and their own creative intelligence.
Fonna Forman: In the formal system, this kind of informal assemblage is understood as a symbol of poverty, what we don’t want our cities to look like. But Teddy and I have found incredible resilience and creativity in these building practices.
One of the things that really differentiates our project is we're not descending down and building houses for migrants. What we’ve been trying to do is demonstrate a way of collaborating, where the capacities of the migrants themselves are an important part of the equation.
Teddy Cruz: We cannot leave institutions off the hook. We need to make those institutions accountable. Industry, civic, philanthropy, cultural institutions, universities—they need to redistribute their own resources in order to support that creative intelligence from below.