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Mariposa Land Port of Entry

Jones Studio

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Text by Ian Volner

For all of the critics who’ve claimed, falsely, that the infrastructure investments of the Obama administration’s much-debated 2009 stimulus produced nothing of merit, the Mariposa Land Port of Entry, in Nogales, Ariz., is a stinging rebuke. Phoenix firm Jones Studio has created a piece of bureaucratic machinery that manages to transcend the contentious politics of trade and immigration—not by ignoring them, but by making them the jumping-off point for a poetic reconsideration of national boundaries. With its slatted Cor-Ten steel canopies, elegantly terraced landscaping, and multiple courtyards, staircases, and covered walkways, the complex seems to speak a language of integration and connection, suggesting, in the words of Arizona poet laureate Alberto Ríos, a source of inspiration for firm principal Eddie Jones, AIA, “The border is what joins us/Not what separates us.” It also, incidentally, manages to be a remarkably effective point of entry for thousands of vehicles driving into the United States, as well as thousands more driving southward into Mexico. Mariposa is one of the United States’ busiest land ports, and the site’s previous structure was over three decades old by the time it was finally replaced. Its successor is a high-tech marvel that features solar-powered hot-water heating and a complex system of stormwater collection that’s helped the building score a LEED Gold rating, boosted by such simple, low-tech features as those Cor-Ten slats, which add natural shading to reduce glare on the exterior windows. In its long, flat silhouette and ruddy complexion, there’s even a hint of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West, making this project a lot more (as the saying goes) than good enough for government work.

Project Credits
Project: Mariposa Land Port of Entry, Nogales, Ariz.
Client: U.S. 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, J. Barry Moffitt, AIA, Tom Conner, Kevin Jones, Brian Lee, Ashley Kenneally, Brett Marinoff, Nick Nevels, David Takeuchi, Amit Upadhye, Eric Weber (project team)
Civil/Transportation/Security Engineering and Surveying: Stantec
Mechanical Engineer: Associated Mechanical Engineers
Structural Engineer: Bakkum Noelke Consulting Structural Engineers
Electrical Engineer/Lighting Design: Woodward Engineering
Geotechnical Engineer: Western 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

This article appeared in the May 2016 issue of ARCHITECT magazine.

Project Description


Located just west of Nogales in southern Arizona, the Mariposa Land Port of Entry is a study in balancing security with a dignified welcome; efficient operations with a healthy work space and achieving a high energy performance/ low water use facility within a harsh desert climate.  Influenced by the smooth continuous lines of a railroad yard and the contrasting vision of a desert oasis, the site plan is designed around the concept of overlaying a bustling vehicle and pedestrian processing station with a lush and vibrant garden.  One million gallons of harvested rainwater supports this vital and nurturing landscape which is designed to infuse the human experience with a connection to nature, alleviating stress and creating a respite for visitors, staff and the officers who operate the port.

At a basic level, the United States/ Mexico border region is defined by a geopolitical line on the earth.   In his poem “Border Lines,” Arizona’s 2014 Poet Laureate, Alberto Rios clearly sees: “the border is what joins us, not what separates.”   Inspired by this clarity of thought, the new Port of Entry strives to be a cultural connection – rather than a division.  Stretching 1000 feet across the site, the threshold of the new port is an entry pavilion inspired by the waving red, white and blue flag.  Additionally, this major reinvention of the 4th busiest port in the U.S. – and Arizona’s largest commercial port – is LEED Gold certified.
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