Title: Brownsville Port of Entry
Location of Proejct: Brownsville, Texas
Project Completion Date: 05-04-2022
Short Description: The Brownsville Port of Entry redefines the journey from Matamoros, Mexico to Brownsville, Texas. Currently located in the southernmost tip of Texas at the Gateway International Bridge over the Rio Grande, this port of entry encounters thousands of passenger cars and pedestrians every day. Crossing the Mexican-United States border comes with many uncertainties, yet a port of entry has the opportunity to create a memorable and reflective experience for anyone who encounters its normally unwelcoming walls. This site explores the sequential nature of moving across borders while reintroducing the cultural history and interaction that once existed between the two countries.
Architect's Statement: A Sequence and a Story
The current role of architecture in a Mexican-United States border crossing is to safely process every person and vehicle through quickly, if they are fortunate enough to make it that far. When provided the correct resources, architecture could become a means of discovery for every individual by reflecting on where they are coming from, where they are now, and where they are going. The impact of crossing the border begins far before approaching a port of entry and can reach far beyond the time they leave, but it is the fusion of all the steps in between that creates the story for each individual.
The border between the United States and Mexico was not always so strictly controlled. In the early 1930s, events such as Charro Days celebrated both sides of the border as residents from Brownsville and Matamoros came together for a parade that traveled across the border and celebrated the culture of the area before it was so divided. Cultural events like Charro Days and other unique celebrations, foods, and activities from both sides of the border are reignited in the Brownsville Port of Entry by highlighting the history as one walks through the hallways and teaching one another in classroom spaces made for bringing the two sides of the border back together. A large mural on the exterior screen wall highlights different historical moments between the United States and Mexico depending on the angle that the vertical slats are viewed.
For every expectation there is also a reality when looking at the sequence of moments one might experience crossing the border. A border crossing does not provide space to digest the realities of transitioning into the United States - leaving loved ones behind, overwhelming numbers of paperwork, the long lines standing in the heat of the day surrounded by tall fences and guards. The Brownsville Port of Entry addresses the need for more spaces that allow for families to say their goodbyes or for people to have a moment of rest after stressful interactions. These ideas came into physical form by incorporating a variety of indoor and outdoor experiences along the circulation paths and providing private areas among public spaces.
A challenge with creating a border crossing is maintaining safety and determining the amount of security that is needed throughout the building. Because there is a strong vehicular presence on-site, the Brownsville Port of Entry reorients the pedestrian path along its own bridge and brings pedestrians to enter on the second floor. Cars use a large portion of the site along the first floor and are directed away from pedestrian paths as they exit the building. A portion of the first floor, which faces Brownsville, is a public space that houses classrooms, a small café, and an auditorium for events. Pedestrians who cross the border exit the building from these spaces and have access to use them before continuing on their way. This access to civic spaces would allow people to become more familiar with the process of a border crossing, learn about the culture and history of both sides of the border, and receive resources for those who need help finding where they may want to go after crossing the border. Introducing these program types to the space will encourage a public aspect of the port of entry, while still maintaining a separate and secure border crossing function.
Brownsville Port of Entry
Student Design Award
Brownsville Port of Entry
- Student Design Award