The National Building Museum will close temporarily from December 2, 2019 to March 2020.

The Wall/El Muro :
What is a Border Wall?

Opening Spring 2020

The Wall/El Muro: What is a Border Wall? examines the border wall from the perspective of architecture and design. By focusing on the built environment, visitors will understand that a border wall makes real—and internationally consequential—something that is otherwise relatively symbolic.

The idea of a new wall is both a continuation of centuries of history and also a new intervention. It is a prime example of the potential of the built world to affect peoples’ lives, as we now see thousands of migrants crossing the border in the midst of changing federal policies. This exhibition addresses the ways in which the architecture and landscape of security surrounds us and challenges us as we imagine America. The border is a place but also looms large as a symbol of both America’s vulnerability and state power.

This exhibition will deploy photography, video, artifacts, and immersive exhibition design to help visitors understand and think about the role of design, architecture, planning, and engineering in the realm of national security and geopolitics. Over the next several years and election cycles, the U.S./Mexico border wall will be the focus of much public conversation, and the Museum will join in and provide background for the discussion. The exhibition will situate the wall in the wider, international context of shifting border lines, the early construction of border fences, and old and new border walls throughout the world.

This exhibition will encourage visitors to be curious and engaged in this international conversation. Ultimately, this exhibition will argue for a more nuanced understanding of the borderlands and new ways for visitors to think about this issue moving forward.

Banner image courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.