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


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 surround us and challenge us as we imagine America. The border is a place, but it 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 coming years, 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, The Wall/El Muro will argue for a more nuanced understanding of the borderlands and new ways for visitors to think about this issue moving forward.


The Wall/El Muro is made possible by:

Avangrid Foundation Logo

Mr. George S. Corey and Ms. Cynthia M. Krus

The Field Fund

Veneble Foundation logo

Banner image courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.



95% of the exhibition was built with reused materials.









Borderwall as Architecture is an artistic and intellectual hand grenade of a book, and a timely re-examination of what the physical barrier that divides the United States of America from the United Mexican States is and could be. Purchase Here

Handbook of Tyranny portrays the routine cruelties of the 21st century through a series of detailed nonfictional graphic illustrations. Purchase Here

Special thanks

Exhibition Design: Matter Architecture Practice
Exhibition Graphics: MGMT. design


Archinect – As immigration stories grip newsfeeds, ‘The Wall/El Muro’ at the National Building Museum examines architecture’s role in the U.S.-Mexico border wall

Architect Magazine – National Building Museum Opens ‘The Wall/El Muro: What is a Border Wall?’ Exhibition

Fast Company – America’s iconic architecture isn’t the White House or the Capitol. It’s the border wall

New York Metropolitan – A major show on the Southern border wall is coming to the National Building Museum in November 

Telemundo DC – Exhibicion “The Wall” sobre el muro fronterizo llega al Building Museum

Washingtonian – An Exhibit About the US/Mexico Border Wall Will Open Soon in DC

Washington Post – The National Building Museum wants to be at the center of the climate change conversation 

WUS9: DC exhibit 'The Wall' examines the U.S./Mexico border wall | Mic'd Up