Graph (detail) by Veronica Gomez

“My creative process always starts with research,” said Veronica Gomez ’19, a recent Rice architecture graduate. While designing her master’s thesis, she studied the history, people, natural terrain, and political and social issues of the Mexico-United States border.

She then funneled her findings into a series of designs that reflect the complex dynamic along the border. Her starting point was a piece titled
“Claiming the Line,” a foldout, 14-foot-long stitched canvas map that details border infrastructure, historical changes, ongoing transactions and even the interactions necessitated by daily living along the divide.

“I am from Mexico, so this topic naturally interests me,” Gomez explained. Like her adviser, Dawn Finley, a Rice associate professor and director of graduate studies, Gomez is particularly interested in fabrics. One striking feature of the canvas map is its ability to compress and expand. When opened, the viewer sees the border as a whole, but the compressed map zooms into specific instances of border life. 

Gomez came to see the border “as a region rather than two countries divided,” and in response she designed a second piece, a building that would “embody the dual character of the border.”

Adorned with different facades facing each country, the building would be a space for humane communication between individuals living on either side and a repository for oral histories of border life.

While Gomez’s designs begin with a thorough examination of her subject, creative progress comes through translating her knowledge into a series of diagrams — often lines and circles that are comprehensible only to Gomez herself. “I identified specific spots along the border and created diagrams that captured the minimal essence or idea of these spaces,” Gomez explained. “This process helps me to understand how things work. From the diagrams, I can then reshape or extrapolate new designs.”