Top design installation that transcended the Trump Wall

What won the Design Museum’s top prize for outstanding design in 2020? A see-saw for children to connect across the US-Mexico border

In a year fractured by the impact of a global health crisis and the enforced separation of family, friends and work colleagues, it was perhaps no surprise that the Design Museum in London should pick a heart-warming piece of social design as the top award in its 2020 Beazley Design of the Year programme.

With all the world’s design innovations to choose from, the Design Museum’s best-of-show prize went to a temporary interactive installation called the ‘Teeter-Totter Wall’ on the US-Mexico border. This enabled children from different countries separated by the Trump barrier to play together on three bright pink see-saws, while their parents and grandparents watch on.

‘A political statement about the desire for human connection…’

Designed by architects Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello with Colectivo Chopeke, the see-saw project is a symbol of hope as well as of intergenerational interaction. In its low-tech simplicity, it makes a political statement about the desire for human connection in direct and authentic way. The project took ten years to realise due to the sensitive context at the border.

According to BBC News broadcast journalist Razia Iqbal, who chaired the judging panel, ‘This was an idea that really moved the judges. Not just something that felt symbolically important, it talked about the possibility of things; that all kinds of things are possible when people come together with great ideas and determination.’

The design awards programme couldn’t entirely escape the shadow of the pandemic, however.  The top award in the graphics category was given to a 3D rendering of – you guessed it – the SARS-CoV-2 virus by Alissa Eckert and Dan Higgins.

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