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Ronald Rael joins a group aiming to bring hospitality to border

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Architect and professor Ronald Rael joined a movement championed by Alight that aims to bring radical hospitality to stretches of the U.S.-Mexico border. The move further extends Rael’s additive manufacturing profile into the humanitarian space. His architecture studio, Rael San Fratello, recently bridged the border using seesaws in a living art project called Teeter-Totter Wall.

Rael carrying a seesaw
Rael carrying a seesaw

Alight, in conjunction with the Burning Man community’s Burners Without Borders, Catholic Sisters, Rael and filmmakers Lina Plioplyte and Kai Schoenhals, make up the group looking to establish community, sustainability and hope. The program is called A Little Piece of Home.

Alight’s program, initially co-designed with IDEO.org, will build a place that evokes feelings of joy and inspiration while migrants await refuge. The team will transform three different shelters along the border, creating community and sustainable tools that support residents to come together through building, cooking, education and shared experiences.

The transformation of the shelters, beginning at Casa de la Misericordia in Nogales, Mexico where over 200 migrants have sought refuge, will create welcoming spaces while providing human-worthy services including healthcare, childcare spaces, practical education services, gardens, computer labs, recreation areas and more.

Mud Frontiers Emerging Objects
Kiln structure (Photo: Rael San Fratello | Dezeen)

Ronald Rael’s AM profile springs from his work as founder of Emerging Objects. Though this company does not figure into Alight’s partnership, its focus on 3D printing objects for the built environment suits the partnership’s purpose. The company collaborated with FORUST to develop 3D printed wood products. The company also printed structures from a mud-based material.

Rael has designed traditional hornos, mud ovens, for the Alight project. We have no word on the means through which the ovens might be constructed, but his prior use of mud-based material is, hopefully, suggestive. These ovens, however they are constructed, provide a sustainable cooking tool. These ovens, along with the other work the team is doing, symbolizes community, resilience and belonging.

Rael commented on the project: “There is a saying in the borderlands, ‘while the border divides, the earth unites (la frontera divide pero la tierra une),’ and traditional adobe ovens made from the earth have always brought people together through food, fire, storytelling, warmth and the experience of a community coming together to build an horno. Together, we built more than an horno — we built friendships and a sense of accomplishment and connection with the migrant families living there.”

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Adam Strömbergsson

Adam is a legal researcher and writer with a background in law and literature. Born in Montreal, Canada, he has spent the last decade in Ottawa, Canada, where he has worked in legislative affairs, law, and academia. Adam specializes in his pursuits, most recently in additive manufacturing. He is particularly interested in the coming international and national regulation of additive manufacturing. His past projects include a history of his alma mater, the University of Ottawa. He has also specialized in equity law and its relationship to judicial review. Adam’s current interest in additive manufacturing pairs with his knowledge of historical developments in higher education, copyright and intellectual property protections.

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