Temporal Installations: InfoSite and Mike Davis Studio

The most trafficked border in the world is mainly characterized by a series of illegal 'off the radar' two-way border crossings. While 'human-flow' mobilizes Northbound in search of dollars, 'infrastructural waste' moves in the opposite direction to construct an insurgent, cross-border urbanism of emergency. Taking advantage of NAFTA generated free economic zones, large maquiladora (assembly) factories position themselves in close proximity with the emerging slums in Tijuana in order to easily extract cheap labor from these informal settlements. Can the maquiladora industry contribute with its own logics and processes of prefabrication to produce surplus, micro-infrastructural support systems that can reinforce the transitional, informal housing environments that dot the periphery of Tijuana?

a maquiladora produced frame : micro-infrastructure for housing in the informal urbanism of tijuana
The Manufactured Sites proposal consists of a maquiladora produced prefabricated frame that acts as a hinge mechanism to mediate across the multiplicity of recycled materials and systems brought from San Diego and re-assembled in Tijuana. By giving primacy to the layered complexities of these informal sites over the singularity of the object, this small piece is also the first step in the construction of a larger, interwoven and open-ended scaffold that helps strengthen an otherwise precarious terrain, without compromising the temporal dynamics of these self-made environments. By bridging between the planned and the unplanned, the legal and the illegal, the object and the ground, as well as man-made and factory processes of construction, this frame questions the meaning of manufacturing and of housing in the context of the building community.

The design is a scaffold system comprised of metal frames manufactured by Mecalux, a maquiladora of heavy-duty industrial pallets. The components are produced by lightly altering existing factory methods and systems of production in order to create, in a sense, a ‘surplus piece’ that is given to the informal communities that are the industries’ surrounding support infrastructure. The scaffold is built, in turn, on top of an artificial pad bulwarked by recycled rubber tires that are interwoven to create a highly functional retaining system. Overall, Manufactured Sites is a transitional architectural system made of PARTS – not an architectural object – that can support and better the unavoidable recycling and improvisational realities of low-income environments. The notion of prefabrication here depends on a triangulation of human and material resources, agencies and institutions. The relationship produced by community based activists in charge of distributing the frame, the community’s participation in building their own housing stock, the architect’s collaboration in designing and facilitating the process, the municipality’s efforts in mediating between the maquiladora industry and the informal sector, and the factory’s support in providing the infrastructure, all suggest an expanding concept of mass-production methodologies.