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Mixed Feelings: San Diego/Tijuana Dialogue Transcript

Teddy Cruz - San Diego Architect:
In this juncture, in this place where these two places approximate each other, a lot of things are dramatized.  I could be in the center right now of one of those new communities in Del Mar and just viscerally when I'm there in the middle of that place, I just...feel completely sad.  Twenty minutes later I'm in the middle of Tijuana.  I feel a lot more charged.  How can you describe that, you know what I mean?  It’s just a feeling.  

Teddy Cruz - San Diego Architect:
When I see in San Diego how every public space has become a mall, and that any excuse to be public has to be accompanied by shopping.  When I see the main avenue of San Diego filled with the typical franchises.  When I see the built environment of San Diego filled with all these gated communities and this sort of clean, sterile way of living.  When I see all this sort of weird kind of context and then I go and I come to Tijuana and I see a different attitude. There’s a different sensibility. Something that makes me feel more alive. I cannot help but want to escape that kind of sterility in San Diego and then embrace this, what you might call, chaos.

Alan Rosenblum - San Diego Architect:
I see a lot of American cities but San Diego, in particular, is very much becoming The Truman Show.  Because its always about image, solely about image. 

Alan Rosenblum - San Diego Architect:
A developer comes, finds a nice hill that has a nice view, chops the top off and creates the little Spanish, Renaissance, Roman, depending on the mood they are in that day, villa.  That appeals to a people that have been already educated and conditioned to believe that that is the right thing to consume.  The socio-cultural implications of this way of building a city are never questioned.  There is this insistence on separation and segregation, and I’m not talking necessarily about racial issues, I’m not talking about a segregation of function or use of the city.  I’m talking about the type of hygiene that does not allow a person to build a room for their grandmother in the garden or in their backyard without first getting a permit that includes building extra parking, as if the grandmother was going to drive.

Mark Steele - San Diego Architect:
I mean we’re so rational here, you got to have certain amount of parking, the streets have to be wide enough, you gotta have a stop sign there, everybody’s got to be safe and have a place to put their car, lots of light and all that, and a lot of times that rationality sort of takes the human spontaneity out of it.

Teddy Cruz - San Diego Architect:
All these track communities, what they sell is surveillance safety supposedly, hygiene.  People fall in love with this idea of getting away from the chaotic center and going to this picturesque village where every house is detached and there is a beautiful backyard and front yard and everything is nice and dandy, but what they are selling ultimately is just boredom, you have to realize that under that beautiful picturesque village there is a huge monster developing, of violence and alienation and isolation.

Alan Rosenblum - San Diego Architect:
This city exists because of this bay and all of the sudden you never get to touch it or see it from anywhere.  Instead we have this mammoth building that absolutely blocks the access to the ocean, and instead has beautiful sail-like doodles on the top to make a reference to this marine theme.  You build the wall of China and then you dress it up with a form that is supposed to evoke what you are covering.

Teddy Cruz
- San Diego Architect:
The architect is sort of this almighty figure who dictates, subjugates reality to number and calculation and construction and result.  But for some reason, every ten to thirty years this issue of informality comes back.  The struggle of people building their own environments is the ultimate Utopian idea. You look at Rem Koolhaas which has become this figure that is talking about the issues; going to Asia, going to Latin America, understanding that in the third world cities is where all these issues of spontaneity and improvisation have been going on, where people are able to integrate infrastructure, landscape and inhabitation again, and so we’ve had it front of us all this time again in places like Tijuana.

Raul Cardenas - Tijuana Architect/Artist:
Take a look around. We don’t have to follow no economical tendency.  Why?  Because we don’t have money.  So, we cannot follow a tendency that falls into an economical category because what we have is necessity.

Alan Rosenblum - San Diego Architect:
This guy has two bucks and he has to choose between a loaf of bread or a brick. And he has to build a little house in this hillside, and there’s one way he’s gonna be doing it and that way it ends up being pretty organic.

Raul Cardenas - Tijuana Architect/Artist:
This guy came and built his house. He wanted just to cross the border, like everybody who comes here. But while he was finding the coyote to cross over the border he got a job at a maquiladora. So, in the maquiladora they gave him palettes and the guy from the llantera (tire store) gave him the wheels, and the guy built his house. The next year, he has a second story, he even put plaster, and all of the sudden, watching his direct TV he says, “Oh man, it’s been six years and I’m still here.”  So all of the sudden Tijuana did not become the trampoline for the pool, it became the end of the rainbow.  Out of the emergency of living, the ephemeral becomes permanent and that’s the whole deal here, the ephemeral becomes permanent.

Raul Cardenas
- Tijuana Architect/Artist:
It’s really hard to plan for Tijuana, you just go out, the people from the municipality. They just can’t, it’s just impossible.

Marcella Cardenas - Tijuana Architect/Artist:
It’s growing so fast.

Raul Cardenas - Tijuana Architect/Artist:
It’s not only growing so fast, it’s growing in away that you cannot follow through it.  Then people start building in places that you never would have guessed that they would be building. Then the economy keeps growing, so more people come.

Marcella Cardenas - Tijuana Architect/Artist:
It’s a train that you cannot stop.

Teddy Cruz - San Diego Architect:
If you were to ask most of the people in San Diego they think that Tijuana, first of all is kind of distant, that there is not a wall separating them, and that when they come to Tijuana that it’s just Avenida Revolucion and it’s painted zebras and mariachis. There is a whole city thriving here.

Bruce Coons - San Diego Preservationist:
It’s like San Diego is turning it’s back on the border and Mexico is trying to get as close as possible.

Sam Marasco - San Diego Developer:
When the San Diegans settled we were very water-oriented.  We settled around the port, but also we were remote from our border.  Borders, historically, have been a point of conflict, mostly collisions of armies, and so you never headquartered your people, your forts next to borders.

Teddy Cruz - San Diego Architect:
So many metaphors about this wall.  This city crashes against this wall.  Its almost like the wall becomes a dam that keeps the intensity of this chaos, supposedly, this density from contaminating the picturesque suburban order of San Diego.  I call it a zero-setback at the border, because it’s a whole country leaning against the other in a zero-setback condition, again speaking of urbanism.  A zero-setback condition that is very much out of the idea of space in the United States.

Teddy Cruz - San Diego Architect:
When I first came to San Diego in ‘82, I came to live in Mira Mesa, which is like this track home, planned community. And I found it really beautiful, really clean, and so different from the chaos in Guatemala.  Little did I know that I was going to be completely sick of it. That in the end I was going to grow really tired of it and critical of it.  I guess because I began to recognize that it is not really truly an image of harmony, necessarily, but a kind of caricature of it. 

Teddy Cruz - San Diego Architect:
When people think of Latin American architecture they have these sort of fixed images of Luis Barragan and bright colors or pseudo-colonial architecture, but ultimately what interests me, more than anything, is really the attitude towards the city, towards the space.  A lot of people talk about transnational metropolis, etc. which is a fantastic image.  And, we should be open and ready for the condition, but we cannot just easily talk about this larger theme without realizing that there is a different attitude altogether.  There is still a distance between theses two places.  I’m talking about an attitude towards the every day, towards the space, towards the way that we use the space, towards ritual, towards the relationship to the other, and I don’t want to sound again raising the flag of Latin America, but the issue of improvisation, of risk-taking, attitudes towards space, of hybridity, cross-programming something that we have lived with in our every day.  When you look at maps of the city of Tijuana the Colonia Libertad is represented as a grid, but when your are in the midst of that place there is no grid.  There’s this sort of very organic juxtaposition, there are no property lines. This constant negotiation of boundaries, that’s an unbelievable legacy.

Raul Cardenas - Tijuana Architect/Artist:
We’re a Third World country and then we are close to the richest city from the richest state from the richest country in the world.  I mean that has to put you in perspective.

Bostich - Tijuana "Nortec" Musician:
The people from Tijuana say that the most beautiful part of Tijuana is San Diego.

Raul Cardenas - Tijuana Architect/Artist:
I mean, it’s like an oasis, even just crossing the border.  We have the same eco-system, but it changes.  It changes because of the economy of San Diego.

Marcella Cardenas - Tijuana Architect/Artist:
It’s green.  

Raul Cardenas - Tijuana Architect/Artist:
It’s green, but they have the same water sources that we do, you know what I mean. They just have the money to implement the water system to irrigate their greenery, and here the only greenery we have is two parks and a golf course. Everything else is just dark gray asphalt.

Joe Martinez - San Diego Architect:
Go down Revolucion, just jumping with people, down in the Rio, jumping with people.  Look at all the taxicabs there, it’s a real city, it’s a real city.

Sam Marasco - San Diego Developer:
You walk the streets of Tijuana, you drive the streets of Tijuana, there’s hustle, there’s movement, there’s action, things are happening, people are doing business, transactions are being engaged in, families are growing, people are studying. They’re building their culture right there.  And, San Diego is doing the same thing, but there’s a higher percentage of the people, I think, on the San Diego side that are just sort of relaxing, enjoying the beautiful environment. 

Teddy Cruz - San Diego Architect:
In Tijuana there is an intensity in the way that people relate to each other, and the way people relate to their own city.

Raul Cardenas - Tijuana Architect/Artist:
Tijuana makes 60,000 homes a year.  60,000.  We can only build, with all the resources 20,000.  It’s like having a permanent circus, that’s Tijuana. And you have to understand that that’s what we consider emergency architecture.  Just go one day to San Diego, they do prototype architecture that is built around a marketing office more than an architectural office, and they tell you how you have to live, and how is the American way of life, and this Californian style of architecture, whatever the hell that is.  We have to follow through those tendencies instead of building our own. 

Raul Cardenas - Tijuana Architect/Artist:
After you realize that it’s not only trash, that that’s where a family lives you start looking at the history of those buildings, and you start seeing the history of a family and how it grows and how it becomes like a building block of our own architectural muscles.  In architecture you cannot go and adapt to something, architecture adapts to you. 

Marcela (& Monica) Arreola - Tijuana Architect:
I work for a construction company that makes homes for the middle and lower-middle classes.  When we cross the border, we see those big California-style houses.  People here are drawn to those houses, so we try and give them that only on a much smaller scale. 

Mark Steele - San Diego Architect:
I think people when they come to a place that they see as a step up, they are gonna want to be like the step up place. 

Teddy Cruz
- San Diego Architect:
Is this the image of the future?  Is that the image?  You know, if this is the image of the future it’s sad, it’s incredibly depressing.  As we were driving the first image also is that of a cemetery, these small mausoleums. This is not that different from San Diego, in that sense. Yes, we can find in those master-planned communities a more manicured and more beautiful landscape, but ultimately in terms of alienation and isolation, and the kind erasure of social relations, of complexity, of diversity, a lot of those things, notions that might seem very trivial, but they are what life is about.  Look at what they are trying to do instead of dealing with those very irregular, informal communities. That if anything had occupied the landscape in a more benign, more tactful way, I mean even in those rubber-tire retaining walls there is something about the kind of organic condition in which these dwellings evolve.

Mark Steele - San Diego Architect:
Now I haven’t seen any example, personally, of what Teddy’s been talking about.  In fact, it seems to me, as thought, when Hispanics come over to the U.S. and want to make their presence known, they’re very tidy and very organized and very ordered.

Teddy Cruz - San Diego Architect:
It’s not that easy to say, ‘Where would you rather live, in this shack or here?’ Of course this is a lot more solid, a lot safer, more manageable, digestible, familiar, whatever.  Again, if those qualities were to be overlaid here this would be a better place.

Mark Steele - Tijuana Architect:
There’s nobody building houses in Rancho Santa Fe out of garage doors.  Believe me.

Teddy Cruz
- San Diego Architect:
It’s a dilemma; it’s a dilemma because ultimately people will want this.  People will search this.  When I hear myself saying this, it’s a very elitist position because who am I to say, ‘No you are wrong, this is not a good place.’  We can be critical of them, but in reality that is what people can afford.  The more I hear it myself the more I reflect.  I cannot sound so definite. Ultimately if I believe in that kind of thing, I should be living there, for example, I should be living in that context maybe I should be living in Tijuana and not in San Diego.  I have to think about this.

Mark Steele - San Diego Architect:
What happens to cities in my mind is that you start out with layers, you build the city once, and that’s what we’re just now doing with San Diego.  We’re just sort of filling it all in, we’re building all the land and it’s the first task, and then you have to go back through and sort of do another layer.  You go back and build a city again.  My dream would be that we would somehow connect the two cities into one city, at some point, and I think that will happen.  A lot of those areas to the South will start infilling, and a lot of the growth will stop going North and East because we will run out of land, and I think we’re gonna see more pressure coming down towards the border.  The population is growing mostly internally now, 60% growth is by you and me and our grandchildren and all that, and it is becoming much more heavily Hispanic. Those are just basic facts.

Teddy Cruz - San Diego Architect:
Maybe, through time, out of these interactions out of these constant tensions, small projects will emerge, erupt, small environments begin to change, transform.  Don’t misunderstand me.  I’m for the power of this global phenomenon, of this possibility of again demolishing those borders, those nationalisms that have demarcated, separated us.  As much as I want to search for those conditions that would transcend that binary.  As much as I’m ideally and romantically searching for that, I cannot avoid thinking that these two places are very different. 

Producer: Phillip Rodriguez

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