Canadian Plaza at the Peace Bridge open buildings

NORR Limited/Open Buildings

The Canadian Plaza at the Peace Bridge designed by NORR Limited in Fort Eerie.

For much of the early 20th century, the architecture of border control stations — where US customs agents process people traveling in and out of the country — mirrored America’s strict stance on immigration. The buildings, like the concrete-and-steel Nogales Port of Entry on Arizona’s border, were designed to look bare-bones, sterile, and uninviting.

But there is a growing movement in the architecture community to design border control stations that look more welcoming, in spite of President Trump’s promises to start building a 55-foot-high wall “within months.”

For the past two decades, the General Services Administration (GSA) has run a program called “Design Excellence,” which aims to raise the standard for public architecture, including patrol stations at the two borders. As Citylab’s Amanda Hurley noted, the shift largely started under Bill Clinton’s administration. 

Check out some of the most impressive new stations below.

Located in Minnesota on the Canadian border, the Warroad Port of Entry services approximately 157,000 cars, buses, and trucks annually. A rich, dark cedar covers the facade of the building, which was constructed in 2012.

The wood continues in the interior. Large windows in the lobby and office area give a sense of openness and transparency.

“You need to be cognizant of officers’ hyper-awareness, but you also have to provide them with a haven,” the station’s leading architect, Julie Snow, told the General Services Administration.

Source: GSA

The neo-futuristic Canadian Plaza at the Peace Bridge, located in Fort Erie, has a bridge that links Buffalo, New York and Ontario, Canada.

According to the architects, the design was inspired by the area’s native long house shelters and canoes, one of the earliest types of transportation used to cross the Niagara River.

Source: Architizer

Completed in 2007, the two-story station on the Canadian side features a central skylight that brings in natural light.

In Arizona, the Mariposa Land Port of Entry is “a study in balancing security with a dignified welcome … and strives to be a cultural connection — rather than a division,” the architects wrote in a statement.

Source: Jones Studio

The designers made a conscious effort to have the open-layout station appear humane and welcoming.

Source: Jones Studio

Constructed in 2014, the 216,000-square-foot port features a processing station for vehicles and pedestrians, a lush garden, and a system that allows it to collect and recycle rainwater.

Source: Jones Studio

In California, the Murrieta Border Patrol Station was designed to blend in with the arid desert landscape. Constructed in 2004, the building’s brick facade is a pale, sand-like brown.

The fence around the entrance for border agents is made of the same steel as the US-Mexico border fence. To access the building, they must walk through the fence “and experience it as a threshold, a reminder of the permeability of borders,” the architects wrote.

Source: Garrison Architects

Inside, the building prioritizes ventilation and natural light to create a comfortable environment. The walls are painted bright yellow.

Built in 2015, the Cross Border Xpress connects San Diego, California with the Tijuana International Airport in Mexico. The architects used bright shades of orange and purple as an homage to the late Mexican architect Ricardo Legoretta, who was known for his vivid pops of color.

The design focuses on making travel between Mexico and the US faster and easier, the designers told Business Insider. It is “a very much needed bridge in this new era of co-existence between the two nations,” the firm wrote.

California’s San Ysidro Port of Entry is the busiest land border crossing in the Western Hemisphere. An expansion of it, set to open in 2019, is “designed to be the port of the future,” according to the GSA.

Source: GSA

The $735 million project will add 38 additional vehicle inspection booths, and ease traffic at the port.

Source: GSA

Like many recently constructed stations, the design shows that border stations don’t need to appear hostile. Instead, they present an opportunity for the US to invest in stations that are both beautiful and secure.