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12 November 2019

Van Alen Institute and The New Yorker Present “Borderlands”

The Short Doc Marks the Debut of Van Alen Sessions Season Six

(New York, NY—November 12, 2019)—Van Alen Institute and The New Yorker today announced the sixth season of Van Alen Sessions, an online short-documentary video series highlighting current debates about urban infrastructure and climate change. This latest installment, Borderlands, depicts three pairs of cities along the U.S.-Mexico border: San Diego and Tijuana; Brownsville and Matamoros; and El Paso and Juarez. In each pair of cities, Borderlands considers how design can increase cross-border collaboration, strengthen these cities’ social and economic networks, and mitigate the environmental impact of border-wall construction. The video is live now on both organizations’ websites.

Borderlands features interviews with Ana Eguiarte, the binational liaison of the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve; Mauricio Ibarra, a city planner in Matamoros; and architect Ronald Rael, who—along with Virginia San Fratello—created the pink seesaws straddling the El Paso-Juarez border wall that became a viral news story this summer. Accompanying the video is an essay by The New Yorker’s Stephania Taladrid.

“To understand the complex infrastructure along the Mexico-U.S. border, it’s critical to listen to those who live, work, and play there,” said Deborah Marton, the executive director of Van Alen Institute. “Through the lenses of urban design and environmental awareness, Borderlands adds a trio of essential stories to this pressing conversation, and we’re thrilled to work again with director Merete Mueller and The New Yorker to share these stories.”

“The border is often talked about as if it’s a hard line where one thing ends and another begins, but it’s much more permeable and complex than that,” said Merete Mueller, the film’s director. “Through the stories of the people and ecosystems that constantly move through and across it, Borderlands depicts a dynamic region of exchange.”

Borderlands is a project of Van Alen Institute, produced in collaboration with The New Yorker. The film was directed by the Brooklyn-based documentary filmmaker and writer Merete Mueller, with editorial direction from The New Yorker. Ms. Mueller also co-produced and directed Van Alen Sessions Seasons Four, Turning the Tide in Miami (2018), and Season Five, Fireproofing the Future in California (2019). Her feature-length work explores the impact of built spaces and landscape on our personal experiences and has screened at SXSW and Hot Docs. Her short-form videos have appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, and VICE.

About Van Alen Sessions

Van Alen Sessions is a series of short documentary videos that investigate critical issues of infrastructure and the built environment. The program was launched in 2016 to humanize monumental design and planning issues and make complex policies relevant, enriching viewers’ understanding of design’s impact on everyday lives. Previous seasons have addressed massive transit tunnel building projects, the relationship between energy infrastructure and communities, automation in urban infrastructural systems, sea-level rise in the city of Miami, and the impact of wildfires on home and community design in California. All seasons to date are available on Van Alen’s website.

This season of Van Alen Sessions is supported, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts. Prior to The New Yorker, Van Alen’s media partners have included The Atlantic and CityLab.

About Van Alen Institute

At Van Alen Institute, we believe design can transform cities, landscapes, and regions to improve people’s lives. We collaborate with communities, scholars, policymakers, and professionals on local and global initiatives that rigorously investigate the most pressing social, cultural, and ecological challenges of tomorrow. Building on more than a century of experience, we develop cross-disciplinary research, provocative public programs, and inventive design competitions.

About The New Yorker

The New Yorker is a multi-platform media enterprise, spanning print, digital, audio, and video content, and live events. With more than a million subscribers to the weekly magazine and twenty million readers every month on newyorker.com, The New Yorker delivers unparalleled reporting and commentary on politics, foreign affairs, business, technology, popular culture, and the arts, along with humor, fiction, poetry, and cartoons. Reaching beyond print, digital editions, and apps, you can find The New Yorker’s writers, editors, and artists on the radio on “The New Yorker Radio Hour” and at marquee events like the New Yorker Festival. The creativity, influence, and impact that have characterized The New Yorker since its founding, in 1925, are today amplified far beyond its pages.

Media Contacts

Van Alen Institute: Alisha Kim Levin, press@vanalen.org, 212-924-7000 x11