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Liquid Line / Linea Liquida

Mariya Anwar and Zoque Wahid

Located in one of the most heavily infrastructured regions in the US, Salton Sea formed in 1905 by the floodwaters from the Colorado River. The endorheic lake is located in a transboundary watershed surrounded by some of the country’s most ambitious waterworks including dams, aqueducts, tunnels, and irrigation canals. The proximity to the US-Mexican border, a most strategic and surveilled geopolitical line, adds to the exceptionality of this territory. In recent decades, Salton Sea water level loss and the sharp increase in salinity have decimated fish populations, resulting in fewer fish-eating birds such as pelicans and cormorants. Only since 2000, water levels have dropped more than 10 feet, exposing 15,000 net acres of dry lakebed, known as playa, and revealing the presence of lithium. Irrespective of the desperate need for action to stop the looming environmental crisis, the geothermal plants populating the southeast lakeshore are capitalizing on the discovery and piloting new processes of lithium extraction.
The design proposal builds on this regional infrastructural imaginary to devise a Liquid Line that would amplify the exchange among lithium, water, and community. The monumental scale of the intervention reintroduces a new order in the territory: where walls divide and isolate, the Liquid Line reconnects and reassembles. Where political divisions nurture identitary fragmentation, the Liquid Line proposes cultural integration. Where infrastructures extract to serve the distant city, the Liquid Line replenishes the hinterlands. Serving as suture, the project operates strategically, reclaiming the right of way of the US-Mexico border to deploy a continental infrastructure that acts as a space of confluence, where different communities, cultures, and economic interests can come together. The Liquid Line serves as a conduit for the transportation of goods and resources, as well as serving existing settlements and attracting new tourist economies. It generates new economic opportunities by circulating lithium, promoting sustainable agriculture through recycled water, and staging new public uses. By recasting the borderline into a space of opportunity and radical imagination, the project invites us to prioritize bi-national cooperation in a path to planetary healing.

Using infrastructure design along the US-Mexico border, Liquid Line aims to encourage economic activity, innovation, and by-national cooperation through the exchange of lithium, water, and community.

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