Border Lines: Inventive Refugee Housing

Unwalling Citizenship: Building Communities Along the Border
Webinar On-Demand
Architectural Record’s 2021 Innovation Conference
Presented by Teddy Cruz and Fonna Forman, Principals, Estudio Teddy Cruz + Fonna Forman

Learning Objectives:

  1. Outline strategies for repurposing outdated or disused urban infrastructure and buildings for beneficial civic use.
  2. Describe planning and design processes that promote equity and inclusion in the built environment.
  3. Discuss how data can help policy makers and designers understand urban environmental problems and create more livable and resilient cities.
  4. Identify construction techniques, materials, and sustainable strategies that can help address seemingly intractable urban challenges, such as the housing crisis.



As part of their research and design interventions along both sides of the San Diego/Tijuana border, architect Teddy Cruz and his partner, political scientist Fonna Forman, have catalyzed a series of supported communities for refugees and other underserved populations. This includes a scale-able model for adaptable housing on the Mexican side. Using concrete-and-steel modular framing, the structures—constructed and customized by inhabitants—can be stacked and expanded to create multi-unit dwellings, work spaces and a sense of community for immigrants whose “temporary” status along the border can extend into years.

Border Lines


Teddy Cruz and Fonna Forman are principals in Estudio Teddy Cruz + Fonna Forman, a research-based political and architectural practice in San Diego investigating borders, informal urbanization, civic infrastructure and public culture. They lead variety of urban research agendas and civic / public interventions in the San Diego-Tijuana border region and beyond. Teddy Cruz (MDes Harvard University) is a Professor of Public Culture and Urbanism in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of California, San Diego. Fonna Forman (PhD University of Chicago) is a Professor of Political Theory at the University of California, San Diego and Founding Director of the UCSD Center on Global Justice.


Architectural Record Innovation Conference 2021
AIA California Council
AIA New York
American Institute of Steel Construction
Armstrong Ceiling and Wall Solutions
AIA and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture
Benjamin Moore & Co.
Bison Innovative Products
BQE Software
DuPont™ Tedlar®
Hofmann Facades
Kingspan Insulated Panels
Landscape Forms
Lutron Electronics Co., Inc.
The Ornamental Metal Institute of New York
Precast/Prestressed Concrete Institute
Sherwin-Williams Coil Coatings
The Steel Institute of New York
Think Wood


Originally published in October 2021