In her very interesting last article on dpr-barcelona entitled On the Border, Ethel Baraona Pohl introduces among others a project that finds its essence in the investigation of the border and more precisely in a resistance against the way the notion of border is being geopolitically considered.
This project is entitled Border Blood Bank and has been designed by Victor Hadjikyriacou within the Unit 5 (tutored by Julia Backhaus & Pedro Font Alba) at the Bartlett School of Architecture.
Border Blood Bank takes scene on the American-Mexican border between two little villages respectively on each side of the “line” which used to have a bridge linking them for communities’ exchanges and that was taken down by the American authorities in 2008.
Victor takes advantage of a loophole in the legislation which remains very loose about the oxymoronal thickness of the line in the air. Thus, he designed two cantilever buildings on each side of the border that flirt with each others and that host a Blood bank useful for the two communities
The following text is written by Victor himself:
” The only way the cities in this region can make it, is to forget that a line and a river exist here.” ( former Ciudad Juarez mayor Gustavo Elizondo)
On the boundary of the state of Texas, a small bridge was created by two bordering communities, Candelaria (U.S.) and San Antonio el Bravo (Mexico). It became a symbol of trade, where the two small towns would exchange goods, such as fuel, postal services, medication and education, thus transforming them into one bilateral community.
In June 2008 the bridge was taken down by the U.S. Border Patrol, thus breaking the link between these two communities.
The aim of the project is to reunite the two communities by providing a blood bank facility which is accessed by both sides. Due to the strict border controls and national planning regulations the program has to be split into two separate buildings. However, the air above the site is not governed by these restrictions and is considered as a “no mans land” without any jurisdiction. This offers the potential to create a structure that cantilevers over the border, above the Rio Grande. Taking this notion and creating a cantilevered building achieves a visual link, reminiscent of the old bridge that used to connect the two neighbouring communities.
The proposed Blood Bank provokes a feeling of weightlessness being supported on thin umbrella like foundations, only lightly touching the ground on each side of the border. At ground floor level, on each side, donors register and give samples of blood to see if they are eligible to donate. Approved donors then proceed to the cantilever level where they donate blood in specified blood group donation rooms. From there the blood is labelled, packaged and lowered, via a complex pulley system, down to the floating blood bank, below in “no mans land”. The bank accommodates laboratories for blood processing and a central independent cooling room for storage.
This river barge then moves along the Rio Grande to supply other communities with its valuable life saving commodity.