Border Town

An independent design studio about divided cities, led by Emily Horne & Tim Maly.

Border Town Design Jam

About the Project

Follow us on Twitter



  1. Border Town: Call for Applications

    The applications phase of Border Town is currently CLOSED

    We are thrilled to announce Border Town, a 10 week independent design studio that Emily Horne and Tim Maly will be running in Toronto this summer.

    From June 16 until August 18, up to 12 studio participants will meet once a week on Thursday evenings to investigate cities built on or divided by borders and conflict zones. Over the course of the summer, our team of collaborators will develop individual (or small group) design projects that will be exhibited at a gallery in Toronto.

    Border Patrol Museum

    We have chosen border towns as our object of study because of the way they throw geopolitical abstractions into sharp physical relief. The powerful influence of legal and cultural frameworks are made visible when towns across a river from one another develop to completely different levels of prosperity. Questions about security and freedom are transformed when you must pass through a checkpoint to visit your neighbours.

    What we’ll do

    Using border towns as a point of entry, we will approach these abstractions as design problems. By investigating these strange edge cases of political geography, we can think about and design for the interaction of cultural and physical architectures. Together, we will explore how these forces shape the built environment and its inhabitants.


    We will look at cities divided by state or national borders, cities divided by continents, and the teeming variety of enclaves and exclaves. We will also consider towns divided by language barriers, and the conflicts that can break out between communities within a single town. We will consider cities forced together and cities torn apart by politics, economics, and war.

    We will explore the border towns of fiction and film. Creators have found a great deal of material to work with in the drama of border town settings, from the anxious refugees in Casablanca to fairy markets of Stardust to the outpost spaceports of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. American westerns in particular return to the border town over and over, whether those borders are between defined nations or — more troublingly — between the ‘civilized’ and the ‘savage’.

    We will share research, host guest speakers, and go on at least one field trip to a real live border town of our own.

    What we’ll make

    What will be the end result? We expect our participants to surprise and delight us. Solutions and explorations could range from:

    • Speculative (proposals for new models of urban sovereignty in a post national world)
    • Documentary (interviews with border town residents affected by heightened border security)
    • Fantastical (plans for fractally constituted international diplomatic trade zones controlled by GPS trackers)
    • Instructional (guidelines for glocal travellers who want to ease past customs officials with minimum friction)

    Border Arcana

    Border Town is modelled on Edible Geography & BLDG BLOG’s Landscapes of Quarantine studio which ran in New York in 2009. Our aim is to meet or exceed the mark set by their inspiring example.

    In parallel to the physical exhibition, we will be curating an online exhibition in the mold of 50 Posts About Cyborgs. We will be inviting creators from all over the world to comment on and contribute to the discussion. If this interests you please get in touch and we will keep you up to date as things develop.

    We will also be seeking opportunities to exhibit in the US, ideally on the border. If you have a spot in mind we’d love to hear from you.

    How to apply

    The applications phase of Border Town is currently CLOSED but if you’re interested in learning more about it, you can download the brief or read it online.

    We look forward to hearing from you.