2013 P/A Awards
Site On an arid stretch of the U.S.–Mexico border, this new U.S. Land Port of Entry (LPOE) connects Mexicali, Mexico, with Calexico, Calif., a 40,000-person city whose infrastructure—including rail corridors, industrial parks, and an airport—is directed, in large part, toward servicing border traffic.
Program The project includes site design to systematize border traffic areas for customs inspections and offices for LPOE-related tenants.
Solution Though a border station is sometimes imagined to be a booth by the side of the road, 21st-century LPOEs are, in fact, complex orchestrations of different scales of transportation, security, technology, and the architectural context of cities in different countries. As juror Steven Ehrlich put it: “It’s a huge and complicated monster, this thing.” To address this monster, Perkins+Will adapted certain cues from the existing context, and, in so doing, made the complex seem simple.
The firm adapted the gridiron city plans of both Mexicali and Calexico as a way to introduce a rational orthogonality into its design, but merged that with the serpentine patterns of both the Colorado River and the train tracks that wind through the cities. A designed landform serves as a sinuous spine to the site, providing orientation to different modes of traffic—the LPOE serves trucks, cars, and pedestrians. The designers tailored the form to serve different objectives: when thick, it provides a thermal wall, and, when spliced, it acts as a retaining wall. Along with the expansive canopies on the LPOE’s pavilions, the landform provides needed cooling without requiring the users to dial up the air conditioning. “This is a desert climate,” Ehrlich noted. “It’s hot—very hot.”
“This project develops lots of different ways of screening,” juror Reed Kroloff said, citing the solar benefits, but also the subtle ways that the complex achieves necessary privacy and security and organizes heavy volumes of traffic without creating an unsightly parking-lot effect.
Its success comes from the fact that it accomplishes this heavy lifting in an understated way—the design softens a busy port in an arid industrial park. Above all, Ehrlich said, “It’s a beautiful concrete structure—simple and elegant.”