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Up against the wall…

19 December 2007

Tear-gas aside, people in Tijuana live as normally as tn — making the best out of a difficult situation.  The real story (from “The Next American City“) isn’t that neighborhoods in Tijuana — despite some architectural “challenges” are real neighborhoods — but that it took so long for anyone to notice.

For several miles along the U.S.-Mexico border, the wall separating San Diego and Tijuana is made from old metal landing pads used by the U.S. Army during the first Gulf War. The metal sheets driven upright into the dirt are six inches north of the actual border, a half-foot into U.S. territory, creating a very narrow no-man’s strip for about 20 miles. Its width is roughly equal to the length of a new pencil.

It is these forgotten spaces that fascinate Teddy Cruz. A San Diego-based architect who was raised in Guatemala and educated in Mexico City, Cruz believes in loose design: If you indiscriminately give unstructured spaces over to the masses, they will find a use for them. As San Diego sets itself back from the wall, Tijuana crashes up against it, using it as a backyard fence, a fourth wall of a house or a memorial shrine….

“Look at this!” Cruz said as he waved out of the window. “A huge economy of small businesses! In the informal organization of these environments there is a strong entrepreneurial energy.” Cruz was quick to concede there are a lot of problems in these shantytowns that don’t merit romanticizing, but “There is a lot of opportunity here, people shaping their own economies.” He pointed out a three-story mall with every unit occupied.

Cruz wants to give that power to people in San Diego. He is developing a high-density, mixed-use housing development in San Ysidro, about 15 miles north of the border….

Taking somebody else’s idea and making money out of it?  Sounds like Teddy Cruz is a REAL American to me!

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