American Backyard

Cartography produced to display and map the photography taken during the journey of Elliot & Genevieve through the U.S./Mexico border.


When Elliot Ross and Genevieve Allison traveled the 2,000 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border it was the spring of 2017. The post-election climate had presented a stark new context for looking at cultural and political difference in the United States — and so many of these fragmenting narratives had found expression in the border wall debate.

Through an amalgam of portraiture and topographical studies of border security infrastructure, American Backyard looks at the reality of life on the border. Various cultural and political processes, which may be ambiguous elsewhere in the country, are amplified here. In an environment where the movement of both people and goods are vigilantly regulated, examined, and controlled—and where federal laws regularly don’t apply—questions of social injustice and discrimination are matters of resounding consequence.

In many ways a crucible, the border issue brought into focus the processes and ideals that bind this country together, as well as those that divide it. Beyond talk of "The Wall," Ross and Allison found a larger, less transparent story about our southern borderlands to do with acculturation, creolization, surveillance, inequality, diversity and compassion.

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Two Sides of the Border

Cartography & orthoimagery produced for the “Two Sides of the Border” exhibition.


Two Sides of the Border is an exhibition in the form of an atlas, a book that selectively draws space and defines borders in order to produce a preferred image. The new atlas presents three perspectives: projective, objective, and subjective. The projective atlas displays work from the 13 studios’ examinations which took on interdisciplinary approaches to study and propose projects dealing with cross border issues: migration, farming labor in Ohio and Kansas, and remittance houses in Mexico to name a few. The objective atlas shows new maps by Thomas Paturet, capitalizing on the assumption that maps have the capacity to dissolve North American borders by emphasizing other geospatial relationships. These are displayed alongside historic maps presenting 400 years of shifting borders in the region, destabilizing the collective imagination of the border. The subjective atlas is a photo essay by the photographer Iwan Baan who traveled to each of the studio sites to capture their changing landscapes and architecture’s role in these regional relationships.

Two Sides of the Border aims to redefine the region and simultaneously is a collaborative project that redefines North American pedagogy. The academic initiative fluidly spans language, borders, institutions and nationalities—all based on the shared interest in developing a comprehensive and unified imagination of the region.

The exhibition is organized by the Mexico City-based architect and educator Tatiana Bilbao and is designed and curated by NILE.

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Un Feu Distinct I

Satellite imagery of forest fires.

Un feu distinct m’habite, et je vois froidement
La violente vie illuminée entière…
Je ne puis plus aimer seulement qu’en dormant
Ses actes gracieux mélangés de lumière.

Mes jours viennent la nuit me rendre des regards,
Après le premier temps de sommeil malheureux ;
Quand le malheur lui-même est dans le noir épars
Ils reviennent me vivre et me donner des yeux.

Que si leur joie éclate, un écho qui m’éveille
N’a rejeté qu’un mort sur ma rive de chair,
Et mon rire étranger suspend à mon oreille,

Comme à la vide conque un murmure de mer,
Le doute, — sur le bord d’une extrême merveille,
Si je suis, si je fus, si je dors ou je veille?

Paul Valéry, Album de vers anciens: 1890–1900, 1920

Atlas of Infrastructure I

First volume of an ongoing “Atlas of Infrastructure” series representing Scandinavia.

Cars, roads, municipal water supplies, sewers, telephones, railroads, weather forecasting, building, even computers in the majority of their uses – reside in a naturalised background, as ordinary and unremarkable to us as trees, daylight and dirt. Our civilisations fundamentally depend on them, yet we notice them mainly when they fail, which luckily for us they rarely do. They are the connective tissues and the circulatory systems of modernity. A well functioning infrastructure is by definition invisible, because its very purpose is to provide a basis for other activities - to accommodate different actors, their shifting goals, and modes of engagement. Only when it breaks down does infrastructure come to the fore.

Paul N. Edwards, Infrastructure and Modernity, 2003

Atlas of Overexploited Territories

EPFL Énoncé Théorique

As second year master students at the EPFL we were asked to produce an “énoncé théorique”: a theoretical research, exploring a subject that we deemed interesting and relevant to introduce our next semester’s project. We chose to study the Baltic Sea through a selection of various climatical, geological, social and political topics. The book pictured in the photography below is the result of this 4 months research. The ‘énoncé’ goes into detail — through maps, diagrams, charts, etc. — searching for clues and patterns on what an overexploited territory looks like (different layers of interaction) and what planning such a territory would imply. This research aims at confronting the classical debates for and against the primacy of economy and employment, against the argument for maintaining landscapes and ecosystems intact.

Should we exploit or maintain? Also, parallel to this argument exists the discussion around the benefits for local versus national populations, global or European interests. What we noticed is that planning (whether it be on land or on sea) is never truly biased, regardless of the efforts by the concerned actors to provide neutrality. In the end, it amounts to a political process linked to a specific paradigm or logic. This book hopes to generate more ideas on how the exploitation of the Baltic Sea could be organised so humans can adequately manage and use the resources offered by the sea, today and in the future. Planning will become crucial in the Baltic Sea where user pressures are currently relatively manageable but are expected to witness a strong shift in the years to come.

Cartography was used throughout this research as a medium to depict specific geographical forms, complex informations and data and provide a reading of a continuously changing reality. In this context, a transboundary landscape analysis was needed to evaluate the current overexploitation of the Baltic Sea and investigate the complex and shifting relation between the reshaping of international or supranational influence on the region and forms of the inhabited territories.

Collaboration: Muriz Djurdjevic