Cross-Border Commons

The Laureles Canyon is the site of our UCSD-Divina Community Station and adjacent to the Tijuana River National Estuary, which is impacted by the flow of slum wastewater and trash, intensified in recent years by an expansion of US Homeland Security infrastructure.  We are developing green infrastructure in the canyon – micro basins and water catchment infrastructure to protect the Estuary – coupled with robust cultural programs for environmental education.

The Cross-Border Commons is an unprecedented transnational environmental conservation initiative, that proposes to link the Tijuana River Estuary in San Diego with the Los Laureles in Tijuana into a continuous political, social and ecological zone, to protect the water and environmental resources shared by these border cities of San Diego and Tijuana.

Led by the UCSD Center on Global Justice, The Cross-Border Commons is stewarded by a coalition of state and municipal governments, grass-roots organizations, communities, and universities on both sides of the border. The project builds upon the work that many individual activists, community leaders, planning and government officials, academic and design initiatives have developed over the last years to engage this environmentally vulnerable transnational juncture.

In the last decade, Laureles Canyon has lost 70 % of its open space due to an increase in unregulated informal growth.  This informal urbanization has accelerated without appropriate sewer and water management infrastructure, prompting unprecedented flows of trash, sewer and pollutants upstream towards the Estuary in the US, contaminating one of the most important environmental zones, the “lungs”, of the bio-region.

The Cross-Border Commons begins in this site of environmental insecurity, proposes to ‘bundle’ undeveloped parcels in Los Laureles Canyon, into an archipelago of conservation, with programming to protect and support the environmental health of the Tijuana River Estuary beyond the border wall to the North.  Establishing a political framework to demarcate this special transnational environmental zone is the first step, so that a land conservancy / community trust fund can be shaped to acquire the lands, and sponsor sustainable conservation programming.

Additionally, we are investing economic resources, educational and research programming to increase community awareness and infrastructural capacity in the Los Laureles canyon, in order to protect the Tijuana River Estuary, understood as a binational asset.

Our vision is that this archipelago of protected lands will be adopted and managed by coalitions between universities, and cultural – civic – environmental NGO’s, to mobilize economic resources, summon community participation, and curate conservation programming.

Public exhibition of The Cross Border Commons
Nature’s Nation: American Art and Environment traveling exhibition: Crystal Bridges, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2019.

U.S. presentation of Dimensions of Citizenship: Architecture and Belonging from the Body to the Cosmos, Wrightwood 659, Chicago, February 2019.

Critical Care: Architecture and Urbanism for a Broken Planet, Architekturzentrum Wien, Vienna, April 2019

Seoul Biennial of Architecture and Urbanism, Seoul, September 2019.

Broken Nature: Design Takes on Human Survival, XII Triennale Milano, Milan, March 2019.

Nature’s Nation: American Art and Environment, Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, September 2018.

Dimensions of Citizenship, U.S. Pavilion, The 18th Venice Architectural Biennale, Venice, July 2018


Fonna Forman and Teddy Cruz, “Nation against Nature: From the Global Border to the Cross-Border Commons,” Architectural Design, forthcoming

Fonna Forman and Teddy Cruz, “Interdependence as a Political Tool: Three Building Blocks for Gaza,” Open Gaza, eds. Vyjayanthi Rao and Michael Sorkin, New York: UR Books, 2019.

Fonna Forman and Teddy Cruz, Fonna Forman and Teddy Cruz, “Access all areas: the porosity of a hostile border”, Architectural Review (May 2019): 18-23.

Fonna Forman and Teddy Cruz, “Citizenship Culture and the Transnational Environmental Commons,” Nature’s Nation: American Art and Environment, eds. Karl Kusserow and Alan Braddock. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018.

Fonna Forman and Teddy Cruz, “MEXUS | US-Mexico Border,” in Critical Care: Architecture and Urbanism for a Broken Planet, eds. Angelika Fitz, Elke Krasne, and Architekturzentrum Wien (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2019).

Fonna Forman and Teddy Cruz, “MEXUS: A Geography of Interdependence,” Catalogue Essay in Dimensions of Citizenship, ed. Nick Axel, Nikolaus Hirsch, Ann Lui and Mimi Zeiger (Inventory Press), 2018.

“A new U.S.-Mexico border? At the Venice Biennale, imagining a binational region called MEXUS”, Carolina A. Miranda, LA Times, May 23, 2018

A cross-border city? Apartments for San Diegans in Tijuana? How architects defy Trump’s wall, The Washington Post, Ian Volner, April 17, 2018.

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