This blog posting provides details about the construction of the Trump Twitter Wall in SketchUp–my art project for Unessay 2. I used the software program SketchUp Pro 2017 to construct the Trump Twitter Wall and both SketchUp and Google Earth Pro to render the images and video used in my project and my various blog postings.
The modeling of the wall began with a review of the key specifications for the wall. Although the official government request for proposals is hundreds of pages long, the key design specifications for the Trump Border Wall are as follows:
1) The wall design shall be reinforced solid concrete.
2) The wall design shall be physically imposing in height. The Government’s nominal concept is for a 30-foot high wall. Offerors should consider this height, but designs with heights of at least 18 feet may be acceptable. Designs with heights of less than 18 feet are not acceptable.
3) It shall not be possible for a human to climb to the top of the wall or access the top of the wall from either side unassisted (e.g. via the use of a ladder, etc.)
4) The wall design shall include anti-climb topping features that prevent scaling using common and more sophisticated climbing aids (e.g. grappling hooks, handholds, etc.)
5) The wall shall prevent digging or tunneling below it for a minimum of 6 feet below the lowest adjacent grade.
6) The wall shall prevent/deter for a minimum of one (1) hour the creation a physical breach of the wall (e.g., punching through the wall) no larger than 12-inches in diameter or square using sledgehammer, car jack, pick axe, chisel, battery operated impact tools, battery operated cutting tools, Oxy/acetylene torch or other similar hand-held tools.
7) The north side of wall (i.e. U.S. facing side) shall be aesthetically pleasing in color, anti-climb texture, etc., to be consistent with general surrounding environment. The manufacturing/construction process should facilitate changes in color and texture pursuant to site specific requirements.
8) The wall design shall be able to accommodate surface drainage.
9) The wall design shall be able to accommodate Border Patrol approved design standards for pedestrian and automated mechanized vehicle sliding gates (25 feet and 50 feet).
10) The wall design shall be constructible to slopes up to 45 percent.
11) The wall fittings and fixtures shall be secured on the north side of the wall to shield from external attack.
12) The wall design should be cost effective to construct, maintain and repair.
These specifications are published by the federal government at the FedBizOpp website and the full government requirements can be reviewed in the US government’s RFP, which is attached in the link below:
Although designing and modeling a border wall that meets all of these design requirements was not the primary purpose of my project, it was important for my design to be as realistic and functional as possible. First, I planned on placing my model in a geolocated Google Earth setting because I want to provide the viewer with a sense of the reality of the Trump Border Wall intersecting 4,500 feet of San Diego/Tijuana border (about .043% of the total length of the wall). Second, the wall becomes a canvas to explore the meaning of political speech, propaganda and control on the US side; political protest on the Mexico side of the wall; and conflict when the both sides of the wall are considered. The concept required a realistic monumental wall.
I began constructing my model by creating a single wall module, which is 30 feet high by 30 feet wide. The wall is 3 feet thick to meet the anti-intrusion specifications and extends 10 feet underground to meet the anti-tunneling specifications. The specifications require that the wall cannot be climbed and that the top incorporate anti-climb features. Although I believe it is unrealistic to think the US can build any wall that cannot be climbed given the nature of human ingenuity, I attempted to meet these specifications by including a smooth concrete texture, and a rounded top that overhangs the Mexican side of the wall. The overhanging rounded top prevents climbers from securing a handhold on top and does not provide points where grappling hooks or ropes can be affixed. I included half-spheres on each edge to account for the staggering of the wall sections as it climbs and descends slopes. These half-spheres eliminate areas where ropes or grappling hooks could be used. Finally, the wall panel on the US side is conceived as a black granite–a surface suitable to memorialize the President’s tweets. Granite is the material of many monuments. The following are images of a single wall module from the US and Mexico side:
These wall modules were used to build the 4,500 feet section of the Trump Twitter Wall in SketchUp. The following image shows some of the wall modules placed in a geolocated SketchUp model (viewed in Google Earth):
Although I could have stopped the “construction” with just 4,500 feet of wall modules, I added some additional elements to the geolocated model that I thought would inform the themes I explore in my project. Because a border wall requires extensive surveillance and security features, I constructed a security apparatus tower that is used to house cameras, sensors, communication equipment and lights. I used stadium lights and cameras uploaded to 3D Warehouse for the security tower, but the tower is my own design. These security poles are placed about every 600 feet along the wall about 150 feet from the wall (to prevent damage from persons on the Mexico side of the wall). I also modeled a turret or tower that was designed to be placed every mile along the wall (and in my model I placed it at the beginning and the end). The turret is my own design. Although these turrets might house additional sensors or even personnel, the turrets are primarily envisioned as symbolic–emphasizing the power of the wall and its creator. Finally, I clad both the security towers and turrets with a gold material evocative of the many Trump buildings around the world, particularly the Trump Hotel in Las Vegas, which provides the precedent for the material choices:
(image from Google Images)
The following images show the security tower and turret before being placed into the geolocated model:
If the Trump Border Wall is actually constructed, it is interesting to consider whether the terminus of the wall in the Pacific ocean might be designated as a National Park or National Monument by Trump or a future administration. Therefore, I conceived a Trump Monument being constructed at a future National Park at the Pacific Ocean terminus of the wall. Although one could imagine many possible “Trump Monuments,” I envisioned a replica of the Washington Monument that is clad in the signature Trump Gold (situated among a Versailles-style garden and reflecting pond). Trump’s use of gold is significant according to Peter York, who find authoritarian tendencies in Trump’s design preferences (Peter York, Trump’s Dictator Chic)
I acquired the model for the Washington Monument and the Versailles garden section from 3D Warehouse, but rendered the reflecting pond and the rest of the features myself. I changed the cladding of the monument from stone to gold. The following image shows the Trump Monument situated at the terminus of the Trump Twitter Wall at the Pacific ocean at a future Trump National Park, with the border wall, turret and security towers in the background:
After creating the basic elements of the Trump Twitter Wall model, I placed all the elements into a geolocated SketchUp model. The wall, security and turret modules were duplicated as necessary. Two Coast Guard ships were added to monitor the portion of the wall that extended into the Pacific ocean. With the elements in place, I added text art elements to the wall on both the US and Mexico side of the wall.
On the US side, I envisioned the wall as a canvas for President Trump’s tweets, beginning with his first tweet on the day of his inauguration and continuing with each and every tweet in order of publication by President Trump. I conceptualized the wall as a type of monument to President Trump’s words–specifically his twitter postings. And given the length of the wall, it can serves as a monument to the words of many future Presidents (given the length of the 2,000 mile border wall and using Trump’s tweeting rate as the metric, it would take 200 years of Presidential tweets and between 25 to 50 future Presidents to fill every panel of the wall). To highlight the juxtaposition of something as casual and ephemeral as tweets and something as permanent as a wall, I modeled the panels where the tweets would be placed from black granite and the text of the tweets as gold foil or engraving. The Trump Twitter Wall can be viewed as a glitzy analog to the Vietnam War Memorial where engraved names on black granite creates profound meaning and evokes deep emotion. Now that he is President, Trump’s words have life and death consequences for people around the world, so the comparison is apt.
Using Adobe Illustrator to create a mask, I created on PNG file for each of the tweets and placed them one-by-one on the Trump wall in the model.
(Created in Adobe Illustrator).
The following images show the first dozen or so President Trump tweets emblazoned on the 30 feet tall Trump wall as it emerges from the Pacific ocean, rendered both in SketchUp and Google Earth:
(Rendered in SketchUp)
(Rendered in Google Earth).
Finally, in contrast to the carefully controlled and memorialized content on the US side of the wall, the Mexican side of the wall was envisioned as an unrestrained canvas for political expression and protest. I found existing text art and graffiti from the Mexico side of existing border fences (as well as other protest art from the Berlin Wall and other sources) and used this on the Mexico side wall panels. The images were imported into SketchUp and attached one by one to the panels. The following images show the Mexico side panels in both SketchUp and Google Earth:
(Rendered with SketchUp)
(Rendered with Google Earth)
With these elements in place, I used SketchUp’s and Google Earth’s camera features to create the images and videos presented as part of my project. I had hoped to do all the rendering in Google Earth because it renders the background with more realism, but the file size of the SketchUp model made it difficult for Google Earth to render with sufficient detail. Therefore, most of the rendering for my project was completed within SketchUp–thus the somewhat stark backgrounds.
The following SketchUp image shows all the key elements of my project.
(Rendered in SketchUp)