This design firm wants to make Trump’s wall big, beautiful and sustainable.

President Donald Trump has given us many details about his wall. “A great wall.” “A big, beautiful, open gate.” “Impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful.” “There could be some fencing.” And we all know who is paying for it: Mexico, whose president continues to insist, “Mexico, of course, will not pay.” 

© DOMO Design Studio

The wall has galvanized Trump’s supporters and horrified his opponents. It has split fiscal conservatives from immigration hawks. It has met with fierce resistance among border communities that fear it will lead to economic catastrophe. And it’s invited skepticism among engineers, who point to the complexity of building a 2,000-mile structure along rugged terrain full of water-logged canyons and mountainous peaks. One thing it has not done, however, is inspired America’s architects—generally a liberal bunch—to start drawing up designs.


Until … now?

One Miami architecture firm, DOMO Design Studio, is proposing a softer, gentler version of Trump’s famous wall: a sustainable structure built out of recycled shipping containers that mimics natural boundaries with divisions created by waterways, sloping terrain and, in urban areas, shopping, public art spaces and even housing units. The drawings look like they could be for a cutting-edge park or an innovative redevelopment project—it just so happens that they’re for a barrier meant to keep out “criminals” and “rapists,” as Trump put it so memorably in his campaign kickoff speech in 2015.

“One of our goals was to not be like the Great Wall of China or the Berlin Wall or any of those typologies that represent division,” principal architect Francisco Llado explained in a recent phone call. “Our design is not about division but about unity of sense and sustainable functionality.”

Llado and Robert Moehring, the firm’s other principal, did not want to talk about politics, and emphasized that their mission is purely architectural. “This is a different way of addressing the border that is sustainable, functional and hopefully beneficial to society in any way possible,” Llado says, “as well as any fauna, flora, landscaping, etc.”

The core of DOMO’s plan rests on the use of recycled shipping containers and excavated trenches. To minimize the eyesore associated with a towering concrete wall, the firm is proposing to scoop 25-foot slopes into the land that doesn’t already have natural boundaries and stack three shipping containers into the manmade grooves. That division would be invisible when viewed at grade level. The border would change as you go along: Some parts of it are rivers, some are mountains, and the studio would like those natural barriers to be mimicked by landscaped borders. When the wall gets into urban areas, that’s where the markets and housing come in.

Llado thinks shipping containers are the only object of the needed size that already exists in surplus and can be readily repurposed for such a large-scale project. Shipping containers are also more cost-effective. “When they ran the numbers, it made no sense,” Llado says about the calculations that showed Trump’s projected $8 billion price tag was about $17 billion off the mark.