The new Mariposa Land Port of Entry is one of the busiest vehicular ports into the United States.
Bill Timmerman The new Mariposa Land Port of Entry is one of the busiest vehicular ports into the United States.


U.S. border facilities can be unfriendly places in our post-9/11 world, seemingly focused on security above all else. But when Eddie Jones, AIA, principal at Jones Studio in Phoenix, designed the new Mariposa Land Port of Entry in Nogales, Ariz., he didn’t start with traffic barriers or inspection lines. He started with the poem “Border Lines,” by Arizona poet laureate Alberto Ríos, who grew up in Nogales. It concludes: “Let us turn the map until we see clearly:/The border is what joins us,/Not what separates us.”

The government’s priorities, however, were more practical: Mariposa is one of the United States’ busiest land ports for vehicle and commercial truck traffic. The existing port facilities were 35 years old, and could no longer efficiently handle the volume of traffic or meet new environmental, inspection, and security requirements, says Traci Madison, a General Services Administration spokesperson.

The traffic is funneled through checkpoints beneath a Cor-Ten canopy.
Bill Timmerman The traffic is funneled through checkpoints beneath a Cor-Ten canopy.

The question was whether Jones’ vision could be joined with the government’s concerns. “We had to produce a more efficient port and a safer port,” he says. “The practical considerations are essential. … But if all we did is create a more functional port, it wouldn’t be healthier, it wouldn’t be less intimidating and it damn sure wouldn’t say, ‘Welcome to the United States.’?”

The design involved a reconception of the port, reworking the bones of the existing structures into a facility that included 216,000 square feet of new facilities. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly known as the stimulus, provided $173 million of the approximately $187 million cost, Madison says.

Cor-Ten canopies also shade small plazas and seating areas where post officials can gather. The landscape was designed as part of a rainwater retention system, while echoing the surrounding Sonoran desert.
Bill Timmerman Cor-Ten canopies also shade small plazas and seating areas where post officials can gather. The landscape was designed as part of a rainwater retention system, while echoing the surrounding Sonoran desert.

Jones Studio’s contract with the GSA was to produce three master plans for the 54-acre site for peer review. It took 45 plans and revisions before the studio satisfied U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials. Yet Jones embraced the challenge. “I loved the disparity in the two forces at work,” he says.

The final design for the expansion—which was one of 11 national GSA Design Award winners while still on the boards in 2010—orients its two main structures running north and south. This presents the short end of the structures to the border and lets the “buildings get out of the way of the vehicles,” Jones says, expediting traffic flow and inspection by creating a natural division that allows commercial trucks to be routed to one side and private vehicles to another.

Cor-Ten steel canopies line the landscaped plaza between the long, barlike structures at Mariposa that hold offices, processing, and port facilities. Steel scuppers and a rainwater harvesting system from StormTech funnel run off into a million-gallon cistern under the site.
Bill Timmerman Cor-Ten steel canopies line the landscaped plaza between the long, barlike structures at Mariposa that hold offices, processing, and port facilities. Steel scuppers and a rainwater harvesting system from StormTech funnel run off into a million-gallon cistern under the site.

Between the two buildings is a planted corridor that Jones describes as “a safe zone,” for officers and staff to relax. “It’s a little street with lots of landscaping, places to sit down and have your lunch,” he says. “Here in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, you’re surrounded by shade and nature.”

Landscaping also plays an important role in the experience of approaching the facility. Chris Winters & Associates, a Phoenix-based landscape architecture firm, divided the site into three zones, intended to create a sense of welcome. The outer zone is a restored Sonoran Desert landscape that uses native plants. Closer to the facility, especially along the pedestrian pathway, the vegetation becomes denser and more lush. The final zone, within the complex, uses water features and more plantings to create a desert oasis. The idea, says Chris Winters, the firm’s principal, is to “shelter people coming in.”

The plaza between the buildings is reserved for staff.
Bill Timmerman The plaza between the buildings is reserved for staff.

The abundant landscaping and the water features are made possible by a rainwater harvesting system that captures runoff from roofs and paved areas and stores it in a million-gallon underground tank. “Once we connected the system, the first monsoon totally filled it, and it’s never been empty since,” says Jones. “All this beautiful landscaping survives on rainwater in the desert.” The buildings also incorporate solar hot-water heating, advanced lighting, and other energy efficiency features that are expected to receive a LEED Gold rating.

Visitors can see the plaza from public areas such as the lobby (shown). The glass is from Guardian and LTI, and windows from Border Glass & Aluminum.
Bill Timmerman Visitors can see the plaza from public areas such as the lobby (shown). The glass is from Guardian and LTI, and windows from Border Glass & Aluminum.

The processing areas incorporate security requirements—agents need to have clear lines of sight and to be able to get to each other for support. But their openness, natural colors, and sense of ordered progression also are designed to relieve the tension and sense of dislocation that comes with a border crossing.

Physical shading is manipulated to provide a feeling of growing comfort and arrival. As you approach the passport booths, Cor-Ten steel trellises slowly decrease the level of light (which can be blinding) at the roadway-level. “The Tohono O’odham”—a Native American group—“used saguaros to filter light hundreds of years ago, and we simply use steel angle to do the same thing,” Jones says. “The spacing of the trellis gets closer together as you finally reach the full shade.”

Offices, however, are enclosed in glass walls to promote a sense of procedural transparency.
Bill Timmerman Offices, however, are enclosed in glass walls to promote a sense of procedural transparency.

Nogales, Ariz., sits just across the border from Nogales, Mexico. Two pieces of art at Mariposa, commissioned through the GSA’s Art in Architecture Program, reference the connections between north and south. “An Album: Sewing into Borderlines” by the Korean visual artist Kimsooja projects silent videos of community members who commute daily between the two countries. Above a walkway, the sculpture “Passage”by Arizona artist Matthew Moore depicts the inverted topography of the Baboquivari Mountains, which run along the border, to represent the geographical landmarks that have guided people in the Sonoran Desert for centuries.

Security concerns are apparent in areas such as the K9 facility, which houses the dogs that assist officers in searching vehicles and making patrols.
Bill Timmerman Security concerns are apparent in areas such as the K9 facility, which houses the dogs that assist officers in searching vehicles and making patrols.

The concrete-and-steel structures have another detail that expresses the reality of a border that, despite a public focus on illegal crossings and drug traffic, remains one of the busiest peaceful borders in the world: Life-sized footprints are scattered across the concrete. Like the intertwined history between the two countries, “they’re traveling and they’re moving forward,” says Jones. “They’re always advancing.”

“Passage,” by local artist Matthew Moore, is installed over one of the site’s many walkways.
Bill Timmerman “Passage,” by local artist Matthew Moore, is installed over one of the site’s many walkways.


Drawings

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Project Credits Project  Mariposa Land Port of Entry, Nogales, Ariz.
Client  General Services Administration
Architect  Jones Studio, Phoenix—Neal Jones, AIA (principal in charge), Eddie Jones, AIA (principal designer), Brian Farling (lead designer), Jacob Benyi (project director), Melissa Farling, FAIA, Maria Salenger, AIA, Joanna Noonan, Rob Viergutz, Bill Osborne, AIA, J. Barry Moffitt, AIA, Tom Conner, Kevin Jones, Brian Lee, Ashley Kenneally, Brett Marinoff, Nick Nevels, David Takeuchi, Amit Upadhye, Eric Weber
Civil Engineering/Transportation Engineering/Security Engineering/Surveying  Stantec
Mechanical Engineer  Associated Mechanical Engineers
Structural Engineer  Bakkum Noelke Consulting Structural Engineers
Electrical Engineer/Lighting Design  Woodward Engineering
Geotechnical Engineer  West Technologies
Construction Manager  Vanir Construction Management (phase 1); Heery International (phase 2-4b)
General Contractor  Hensel Phelps
Landscape Architect  Chris Winters & Associates; ARC Studios
Wayfinding  Stantec; Jones Studio
LEED Consultant  Green Ideas
Fire Protection  EJ Engineering Group; Stantec
Artists  Matthew Moore (“Passage”); Kimsooja (“An Album: Sewing into Borderlines”)
Size  115,722 square feet (building); 130,840 square feet (canopy)
Cost  $187 million

Material and Sources

Building Management Systems and Services  Alerton alerton.com
Carpet  Shaw Contract Group shawcontractgroup.com
Ceilings  Hunter Douglas Contract hunterdouglascontract.com
Concrete  Hensel Phelps henselphelps.com; GRG
Glass  Guardian guardian.com; LTI Smart Glass ltisg.com
Gypsum  USG usg.com; Georgia-Pacific www.buildgp.com
HVAC  SPX Cooling Technologies spxcooling.com; Daikin Applied daikinmcquay.com
Lighting Control System  Lutron Electronics Co. lutron.com
Lighting  R.C. Lurie Co. rclurie.com
Masonry and Stone  Superlite Block, an Oldcastle Company superliteblock.com
Metal  S&H Steel snhsteel.com; S Diamond Steel  sdiamondsteel.com
Millwork  Pascetti pascettisteel.com, Architectural Millwork Design archmillwork.com
Paints and Finishes  Dunn-Edwards Corp. dunnedwards.com
Roofing  Roofing Southwest by Sprayfoam Southwest roofingsouthwest.com
Wayfinding  ASI Sign Systems asisignage.com
Windows, Curtainwalls, Doors  Border Glass & Aluminum borderglass.com
Rainwater Harvesting  StormTech, A Division of ADS  stormtech.com