Rael San Fratello

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Art Design

Interview: Rael San Fratello Navigates the Boundaries of 3D Printing, Architecture, and the Impact of Division

September 1, 2022

Grace Ebert

“House Divided.” All images © Rael San Fratello, shared with permission

Virginia San Fratello and Ronald Rael of the eponymous studio Rael San Fratello (previously) foster a practice that’s difficult to categorize, which they speak to in a new interview supported by Colossal Members. The pair pursue projects that transcend the boundaries of design, art, technology, and craft: they continually address the implications of the U.S.-Mexico border wall, had a hand in the iconic Prada Marfa, and have constructed homes entirely through 3D printing. Although their interests are broad, Rael San Fratello is always committed to the material and structural, to recognizing everyone’s humanity, and to finding sustainable, practical ways to create a more hospitable future.

It was our hope that people would be able to relate to some of the spaces we created and would be able to understand and literally feel the bereftness, loneliness, and loss created by the division in the house. These are emotions that we all have and we all understand. With this project, we wish to communicate how the (border) wall is not only dividing places. It’s dividing people. It’s dividing families and how the unfortunate politics of the wall today is dividing children from their parents.

In this conversation, the pair speaks with Colossal managing editor Grace Ebert about applying their 3D-printing practice to larger projects, the role tradition plays in their works, and how, as educators, they encourage their students to embody the same innovative, endlessly curious mindset.

 

From the Frontier Drive-Inn project

 

 



Art Design

Rael San Fratello’s Pink Teeter-Totters at the U.S.-Mexico Border Win Beazley Design of the Year

January 19, 2021

Grace Ebert

The three neon pink seesaws that slotted through the U.S.-Mexico border were just named the 2020 Beazley Design of the Year. Conceived by Oakland-based artists Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello (previously), the playful, subversive project was installed in July 2019 between El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez and physically connected the two communities despite the 20-foot barrier. The prestigious, annual award comes from London’s Design Museum.

Rael and San Fratello spent a decade working on “Teeter-Totter Wall” before its installation at the border during a particularly divisive time under the Trump administration. Although it was in use for less than an hour, the interactive work intended to foster and display unity between children and adults from both countries as they physically lifted each other up. In response to the administration separating families at the border, Rael wrote about the project:

The teeter-totters represented the kind of balance necessary for any two people, two nations, to achieve equality, with the understanding that the actions on one side have direct consequences on the other. The teeter-totter is the physical manifestation of the Golden Rule—treat others as you would like others to treat you—a maxim that is shared by all cultures and religions. To experience joy on a teeter-totter, you must allow the other person to experience joy as well.

Among the other winners are a 3D rendering of SARS-CoV-2 by Alissa Eckert and Dan Higgins for the CDC and Social Design Collaborative’s “ModSkool,” a moveable building that can be easily assembled and taken down in response to evictions of farming communities in India. Check out all the top designs through the museum’s virtual exhibition that runs until March 28, and head to Rael San Fratello’s site and Instagram to see more of the duo’s socially minded projects.

 

 

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Art Design

Utilizing Modern 3D Printing, Artistic Duo Rael San Fratello Constructs Coiled Earthen Architecture

August 18, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Rael San Fratello, shared with permission

Modern architectural building methods and Indigenous materials converge in the latest endeavor by Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, titled “Casa Covida.” The earthen structure is part of a MUD Frontiers/Zoquetes Fronterizos that centers on Pueblo de Los Ángeles and the ways technological advances can work in unison with historic mud-based designs. “Casa Covida” contains a bathing pool, sleeping areas, and fireplace seats for two.

To create the three-room home, the duo employs a custom, portable robot that they transport to various sites, allowing them to dig soil and other materials and immediately shape it into the necessary structures. Utilizing clay and mud, the building process is informed by the practices of Ancestral Pueblo peoples and Indo-Hispano cultures of northern New Mexico and southern Colorado. When wet, the natural materials are layered in zigzag-like coils. The undulating, textured facades generally are made with a few rows to provide insulation from the nighttime cold.

MUD Frontiers was a recent recipient of a 2020 Art + Technology grant from LACMA. It strives to consider “traditional clay craft at the scale of architecture and pottery. The end goal of this endeavor is to demonstrate that low-cost and low-labor construction that is accessible, economical, and safe is possible,” a statement says.

Based in La Florida, Colorado, and Oakland, respectively, Rael and San Fratello are known for subversive projects at the intersection of art and architecture, like the neon pink teetertotters slotted through the U.S.-Mexico border wall. Follow their latest sustainable works on Instagram. (via Hyperallergic)

 

 

 



Amazing Art Design

Neighboring Communities Playfully Connect Atop Neon Pink Teetertotters Slotted Through the U.S.-Mexico Border Wall

July 30, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello have long worked in activating structures in projects that blur the line between art and architecture. The Oakland-based duo, who self-describe as pursuing “applied architectural research”, also have a longstanding interest in the United States-Mexico border wall. In 2009 Rael wrote Borderwall as Architecture, which features a conceptual drawing of a teetertotter. The concept relocates the classic playground equipment to the border wall as its fulcrum. Ten years later, this cover art came to life in the neighboring communities of Sunland Park, New Mexico and Colonia Anapra, Mexico.

Constructed by Taller Herrería in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, neon pink teetertotters slot through the wall’s narrow gaps, allowing citizens on both sides to playfully engage with their cross-border counterparts. The fundamental design of the teetertotter, while delightful and chuckle-inducing, also functions by each user literally feeling the weight of humanity of the person on the other side. In an Instagram post announcing the project Rael shared, “children and adults were connected in meaningful ways on both sides with the recognition that the actions that take place on one side have a direct consequence on the other side.”

Rael and San Fratello worked in collaboration with Omar Rios to execute “Teetertotter Walls.” Rael is a Professor of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley and San Fratello is an Assistant Professor at San José State University. Dive into an archive of nearly twenty years of the duo’s socially engaged work on their website, and follow along with their latest projects on Instagram.

 

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