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When Mental Walls Lead to Physical Walls

Engineers have helped design and build the world you live in. Engineers and engineering are behind your phone, your home, and your ability to navigate life. Engineers also design and build structures like border walls. This immersive public art and engagement project–comprised of a self-standing border wall sculpture and a museum of walls–exposes visitors to the political nature of engineering.

When Mental Walls Lead to Physical Walls is designed to bring to the surface of people’s minds the simple fact that the built world they live in and the technologies woven into our social fabric don’t magically appear. Instead, they are the outcomes of focused thought, design, politics, and resources (like money and materials), all of which find a home in the process of engineering.

Using the current debate around border walls between the U.S. and Mexico, this interactive public art installation intends to create a conversation highlighting the role of engineers and companies in building objects and structures that have significant long-term social, political, economic, and environmental implications. It asks the public to consider important questions like, What is the social responsibility of engineers in society? and, Who do and who should engineers work for?

Darshan Karwat

An unexpected academic, Darshan is the head of re-Engineered, an interdisciplinary laboratory that embeds peace, social justice, and environmental protection in engineering. He’s an aerospace engineer by training, with a background in combustion chemistry and sustainability ethics from the University of Michigan. Before coming to Arizona State University, he worked as a AAA Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on climate change resilience and community-based air pollution monitoring, and then at the U.S. Department of Energy as the technical lead of the Wave Energy Prize.